As the ancient tradition of Bingtown’s Old Traders slowly erodes under the cold new order of a corrupt ruler, the Vestrits anxiously await the return of their liveship—a rare magic ship carved from sentient wizardwood, which bonds the ships mystically with those who sail them. And Althea Vestrit waits even more avidly, living only to reclaim the ship as her lost inheritance and captain her on the high seas.
But the Vivacia has been seized by the ruthless pirate captain Kennit, who holds Althea’s nephew and his father hostage. Althea and her onetime sea mate Brashen resolve to liberate the liveship—but their plan may prove more dangerous than leaving the Vivacia in Kennit’s ambitious grasp.
“Everything in my life that I was sure I would do someday has always been snatched away when it was almost within my reach. Perhaps it will again.”
The Mad Ship… Where to even start with this review? I’m not certain. So much happens in The Mad Ship. Without reading Ship of Magic, you would be able to follow along, but you wouldn’t have the context. You wouldn’t know how things are so absolutely brilliant. So many things happen, yet nothing is solved. And nothing will be the same as it was in the beginning by the end of the series.
If I couldn’t say with certainty that the best thing Robin Hobb does is her characters, I would say it is her worldbuilding. The Realm of the Elderlings is absolutely unreal. At the start of the Farseer trilogy and Liveship Traders we knew nothing about the Elderlings. And because we knew nothing, I instantly wanted to know everything. The Mad Ship is the start to us learning more about them. Like, holy fucking shit the revelations in this book are unreal and I honestly hurt inside trying to contain my amazement.
The Liveships are without a doubt the most unique thing I have ever read in fantasy. I have never seen their like. I haven’t even seen anything close to the Liveships before. The revelations about them throughout the book, the hints that we have seen since the start. I’m absolutely amazed at the brilliance of the writing of the Liveships.
Liveships are people, too. They are as much characters in this series as everyone else. I talked about Althea and Malta, my beloved Wintrow, and Kennit and motherfucking Kyle in the previous review. But the ships are amazing characters. Vivacia is a young, impressionable girl. She is desperate for validation. And Kennit is trying to turn her into a pirate ship, because Kennit is a fucking asshole. Kennit is charming her as a man charms a woman, and I hate him. Also, what is he doing to my poor Wintrow?!
Then there is Paragon, the Mad Ship. Beached for years, bitter as hell. Paragon has killed his family again and again before returning home. Yet, what is the real story? What happened? Why can’t he remember what he did? Paragon is quite mad, in fact. He throws tantrums. He wants to be accepted but he fears it as much as he wants it. He is a scared little boy, just trying to die. And Liveships don’t die easy. Yet Althea and Brashen, with help from Amber, convince him to go after Vivacia and rescue her from the pirates. I love Paragon.
Oh, and Amber. Amber isn’t a new character. And I love her to pieces. And boy was I in for a shock when I put some very elaborate pieces together about Amber. I’m still shocked.
Robin Hobb just knows how to write. I almost kind of hate myself for not reading her sooner. I don’t understand how anything can be so damn good. I’m about to start the third and final Liveship Traders book, and I’m scared, and I’m hopeful, but I just have to get to the end.
To read more reviews for this series, check out the Liveship Traders series page!