Plot-wise, I honestly don’t have a lot of things to say about The Mad Ship. Same as the first book and pretty much all Hobb’s books that I’ve read so far, character developments and relationships took the utmost priority here. There is nothing wrong with it, in fact, I loved it most often than not. However, there are a few pacing issues with this book that made me deduct my rating. Let it be known first that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Hobb’s prose, even when some of the POV’s felt tedious and unnecessary, I found them enjoyable to read due to how great Hobb’s writing is. The fact that I finished reading this 900 pages tome within four days should be evident enough.
“Tomorrow owes you the sum of your yesterdays. No more than that. And no less.”
The pacing issues I had for this book were caused because of the new character, Serilla, and also the returning serpent’s POV. Serilla as a character just bored the hell out of me, she faced a lot of hardships but it all happened way too fast before her personality was fully fleshed out yet and it made my empathy towards her completely desensitized. As for the serpent’s POV, it’s the end of the second book already and their POV remained super vague and weird to read. These are minor issues though, I can’t shake the feeling that Hobb is using this book just as a solid foundation for the rewarding conclusion of the trilogy.
The Mad Ship explore the previous characters relationships and personalities even more than before, this is especially true for Captain Kennit, Wintrow, the Liveships, and Malta; the results were absolutely terrific. Captain Kennit is a very complex character, I really should hate him but I just can’t. He did a lot of questionable things but at the same time, he also did a lot of great things even though almost all of them happened for the wrong reasons. Other than him, it was a pleasant experience reading about every characters’ development, this is pretty much Hobb’s main strength as a writer. However, my biggest praise will have to go towards Malta. Malta is probably one of the biggest surprises in character development I’ve ever had in literature. Reading the first book, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say that I absolutely despised her with every beat of my heart, and that’s still true for the first half of this book. Then came the second half of the book where Hobb improved her personality realistically and seamlessly, it was in a word, amazing. Also, I have a feeling that one of the characters in this trilogy is actually a character from the Farseer trilogy, I can’t be completely sure yet but at this point, I’m really sure it’s him.
“Love isn't just about feeling sure of the other person, knowing what he would give up for you. It's knowing with certainty what you are willing to surrender for his sake. Make no mistake; each partner gives up something. Individual dreams are surrendered for a shared one.”
There are also several revelations towards the serpents, the liveships, the Rain Wilds, the dragons that bring even more rich detail towards the world-building in Hobb’s books. It’s pretty obvious that Hobb withholds tons of the remaining revelations for the third book and I hope it all will leads towards a satisfying and rewarding conclusion to the trilogy.
The Mad Ship is a great sequel with very rich characters and world-building developments. It’s too bad that it’s also afflicted with the infamous middle book syndrome but if the third book managed to make all the preparation in this book worthwhile, The Liveship Traders has a chance of becoming one of my favorite trilogy of all time.