Don’t get me wrong, the Farseer trilogy certainly has its charm but the third book of the trilogy, Ass Quest, was a massive disappointment me. Fortunately, that didn’t stop me from giving Hobb another try because this was just utterly fantastic.
“Look forward, not back. Correct your course and go on. You cannot undo yesterday's journey.”
Ship of Magic, the first book in the Liveship Traders trilogy—which is also the second out five subseries within Hobb’s gigantic Realm of the Elderlings series—is a completely different book from Fitz’s first trilogy. It contained a new storyline, revolves around a completely new cast, new magic system, and the story took place on a completely different area from Fitz’s storyline. In fact, other than a few familiar places and event mentioned, such as Six Duchies and Red Ship War, there seems to be absolutely no correlation between this book and the Farseer trilogy.
Taking place south of the Six Duchies, Ship of Magic focused around a variety of casts with their own agenda and motives in the conflicts of persevering faith, family, and gaining the liveship, a rare ship that can be quickened (brought to life) only when three family members from successive generations have died upon their deck. The different location also provides a great expansion to the world-building element for the series that Hobb has created previously in the Farseer trilogy.
“The man who worries about what will next be happening to him loses this moment in dread of the next, and poisons the next with pre-judgement.”
I absolutely love reading this book. Same as Hobb’s previous trilogy, this is still a totally character driven book and the main plot moved at a really slow pace with the characters development taking the highest priority. What differs this book greatly from the Farseer trilogy however is the fact that it’s written in third person multi-POV. Whether you love him or not, Fitz is a well-written character and Hobb did a spectacular job in fleshing out his and all the major side characters’ personality even when the narrative was told solely from Fitz’s perspective. However, as great as Hobb did, if we truly want to know all the characters’ true thoughts and feelings, multi-POV is always the best plot device to do it.
Hobb is truly a brilliant author, it doesn’t matter whether it’s first person or third person perspective, she knows how to write and make her characters felt realistic, complex, and compelling to read; even when some of the characters were despicable as dog shit (Malta). I forgot the exact numbers but readers get to follow the storyline from the perspective of more or less thirteen characters and I found them all highly engaging and addictive to read (including Malta’s). It was hard to choose a favorite POV here (excluding Malta) when they are all superbly well-written, but I think it’s safe to say that out of all of them, Wintrow was definitely my favorite one. Every character had a magnificent character development, in personalities and relationships between the cast, but Wintrow’s storyline simply excelled above all the others. Just from the first book alone, I already love his POV more than Fitz’s.
“I’ve just been living from day to day. Waiting for something or someone else to change the situation.” His eyes studied her face, looking for a reaction to his next words. “I think I need to make a real decision. I believe I need to take action on my own.”
Pirates, amazing ensemble cast, serpents, sentient ships, great actions (when it’s there), Ship of Magic is a superb start to a trilogy. At this point, if someone told me that Hobb is actually a psychologist, I will believe them due to how great she is at characters studies. I absolutely can’t wait to continue to the sequel and I highly recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a great character driven fantasy books. This is the first 5 stars rating I give to Robin Hobb, and hopefully the first of many.
Picture: The Liveship Traders by Marc Simonetti