You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ship of Magic

Robin Hobb's Ship of Magic is a family drama set in a fantasy world where ships made of wizardwood quicken after three generations and gain sentience. The magic ships can sense their crew and cargo and the winds and the current; they can communicate with their "family" and sail better than an ordinary vessel. The novel is about the liveship Vivacia and the Vestrit family that sails her.

Althea Vestrit is a young woman whose family liveship is close to quickening. When her ailing father dies on the deck of the ship, the figurehead comes to life. Althea and Vivacia have a strong bond thanks to the years that Althea spent on the ship with her father. However Althea's brother-in-law Kyle Haven, who is in charge of the family fortunes, has different plans for the ship. He sees Althea as a spoiled girl who should stay at home and take care of family business instead of doing men's work on a ship. Althea is heartbroken that she cannot be with her ship, and angry at Kyle for keeping them apart. She swears that she will prove herself as a sailor, ending up posing as a ship's boy to get experience and validation in the form of a ship's ticket. This proves to be a big lesson for her. She realizes how easy she had it as the daughter of the ship's captain. She changes from being a spoiled girl to being a wary young woman.

Wintrow Haven is the thirteen-year-old son of Kyle Haven and Althea's sister Keffria. At the start of the story Wintrow is at a monastery. He was sent there against his will four years earlier but has settled well and believes he has found his calling. After coming home to be with his family at the death of his grandfather, his father Kyle forces him to abandon the monastic life and live aboard the Vivacia, who requires a Vestrit to be aboard her. Wintrow is devastated, and Vivacia is distraught at having an unwilling family member aboard her instead of the loving Althea. Wintrow cannot please his cruel and demanding father. He finally adjusts well to the ship (Vivacia is his only friend on board), but decides he must jump ship and try to make his way to his monastery.

Ronica Vestrit is the widow of Ephron Vestrit who finds herself in an awkward position. She is dismayed at Kyle's treatment of her grandson but is powerless to act. Moreover, she must help her daughter Keffria raise Keffria's adolescent daughter Malta. Malta is headstrong and ready for the benefits of being a young woman, but has no understanding of the commitments she is involving herself with. Malta realizes how she can manipulate her father, yet she must live with her mother and grandmother while Kyle is sailing the ship.

Kennit is a pirate captain who has grand designs that include the capture of a liveship. He makes a deal with his first mate Sorcor that they will pursue a slave ship for every liveship they pursue. Kennit becomes a hero to the slaves that they free. And in the Vestrit's home of Bingtown a mad blind liveship sits and waits in solitude with occasional visits from friends and strangers.

This story is about these characters and others. Althea and Wintrow and their family are complex and growing. Even Vivacia is a complex character who changes throughout the story. The story is more dramatic with the constant theme of slavery, which moves from the background to take a central role in the story. Kyle's decision to use the liveship as a slave ship has serious consequences. I hadn't expected such a hard look at the evils of slavery but the story swept me up and kept me involved. The troubles of the Vestrit are engrossing and make for a great story. The story mixes fantasy and ships in a fresh new blend. A-

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