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Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

Complete series with 3 novels
Genres: fantasy, epic fantasy, high fantasy, sea-faring
Prequel Series: The Farseer Trilogy
Sequel Series: Tawny Man, Rain Wild Chronicles, The Fitz and the Fool

Blurb:

Bingtown sits on the edge of the Rain Wilds, at the mouth of the Rain River, a caustic and unwelcoming river if ever there was one. And only Bingtown Traders are allowed to trade with the Rain Wilds, which is a source of magical items. This is because they have Liveships, ships that awaken when three generations have died aboard their vessel and are the only thing to survive the waters of the Rain River. The Vestrit family is one of these Trader families, and their ship Vivacia is just awakened. Only everything is going wrong. Because it is Hobb.

Reading Order:

1. Ship of Magic
2. The Mad Ship
3. Ship of Destiny

Review:

When starting Ship of Magic, I immediately knew Liveship Traders was going to be an instant-favourite. It follows up a few years after the Farseer trilogy, with a new cast of characters. Yet you don’t have to read the Farseer trilogy to understand this. In fact, you would never know it was part of a larger world if you weren’t told by someone else going in. I would argue you do need to read Liveship Traders before reading Tawny Man, however. You could definitely skip this, but I think you would miss a lot of nuance.

As always with Robin Hobb, Liveship Traders is about the people much more than it is about the story. The characters drive the books. And I love them, and I want the best for them. And they go through fucking hell. Hobb, why you do this to me? The cast is also, in large, a bunch of teenager and young adults. Which is an interesting choice.

Liveship Traders is absolutely filled with villains. From the very first chapter we read, we are met with a pirate. And not one of those sexy, good guy pirates who ladies swoon over. Nope, we meet Kennit, would be Pirate King, and Asshole Supreme. Then there is Kyle. Fuck Kyle. He is the best villain I’ve ever read simply because he is so realistic. Kyle could be anyone you know, and you wouldn’t even know it because he hides it from the people he doesn’t want to see that side of him. I hope he gets eaten by sea monsters. This may not seem like a lot, but they take up a lot of book time. And the things that those villains have done to what are a bunch of children, mostly Kyle, is deplorable.

Also included are:
– Althea Vestrit, who was going to stay aboard Vivacia, her Liveship, before her father died and left it to her older sister, who gave it to her brother-in-law motherfucking Kyle. Those heartless bastards.
– Wintrow Vestrit, who was sent away to become a priest but was recalled to be forced to become a sailor by his father, motherfucking Kyle.
– Malta, the precocious, headstrong preteen who refuses to listen to those with better common sense. Also, Wintrow’s younger sister, and the spawn of Kyle.
– Vivacia, a brand new, young, impressionable little girl Liveship, desperate for validation.
– Paragon, the crazy Liveship people think is killing his crew. Bitter as hell, and definitely mad. He is a scared little boy, actually trying to die.
– And many, many more awesome people.

The worldbuilding is amazing. In fact, it blew my mind.  The Liveships are absolutely amazing and are without a doubt the most unique thing I have ever read in fantasy. Ships that can come alive! That can swim up a river that is corrosive to everything else. That take the death of their family on their decks to come alive. Plus, there is the mystery of just who are the Elderlings, which gets explored a little throughout the series. And I wanted to know so much more, because the way Hobb has built up everything, yet only releases information slowly, is great yet leaves me needing more.

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 absolutely loved the journey Liveship Traders took me on. I felt like I ran the range of emotions. I was scared, I was hopeful, I was happy, I was sad. I just loved the feelings this series instilled in me. I loved it throughout.

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