You Are What You Read

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

My Photo
Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mad Ship

Mad Ship is the second book in Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy. In this sequel, the Vestrit family's liveship Vivacia comes under the sway of Kennit, the pirate who captured her at the end of the first book. Instead of becoming resentful, Vivacia embraces her new captain. While Kennit and Vivacia come to admire each other, their emotions and memories entwined through the magic of the wizardwood, jealousy grows in Kennit's girlfriend and Wintrow--Vivacia's only family member on board. Though Wintrow is possessive of the ship, he comes to regard Kennit as a strong father figure, ironically with more compassion than his own father chained in a cabin. Wintrow urges Kennit to get rid of his father, and Kennit obliges by imprisoning him on an island. This part of the book is the most intriguing, with the characters growing and their allegiances shifting. Kennit uses his pirate tactics as part of a bigger plan to eliminate the slave trade and make the lives of refugees better, and Vivacia is drawn to him for that. Wintrow still sees him as a murderous pirate, but comes to see him more like Vivacia, partly thanks to the bond they all share.

Meanwhile back at Bingtown, Wintrow's sister Malta starts a journey from being a spoiled girl to a strong woman, much like Althea's transformation in the first book. At first she only wants her father to come home to give her everything that the rest of her family won't. When Althea come home on another liveship, Malta and the Vestrit family are scandalized. Althea agrees to live a more domestic life, but then Brashen comes to give the family the news that their ship has been captured and Malta's father and brother may or may not be alive. This is a wake-up call for Malta. At first she tries to use her feminine charms to convince her old beau to help her, then to convince the Rain Wild Trader man who has been courting her. She comes to realize the depth of the politics involved, and how little others can help her.

The Satrap of Jamaillia, who is nominally the ruler of Bingtown, is convinced by his platonic consort Serilla to visit the town to make peace. Serilla is tired of the Satrap's weakness and venality, and she hopes to escape from him in Bingtown. But on the voyage she discovers that the foreign ships he has escorting them are planning some sort of coup or attack. She manages to get the Satrap into Bingtown and in the care of the traders there, but a riot breaks out and the town is burned, presumably by the foreign forces. Malta's courter Reyn seizes the Satrap and takes him to the Rain Wild city up the river, though Malta is injured in the process.

Reyn has become under the sway of the last dragon in a wooden egg buried under the city. It is the dragon eggs that are the secret source of the wizardwood: the large eggs contain the memories of dragon ancestors, and they store the memories of Liveship families and crew then create an illusion of consciousness in the figurehead out of the memories. However, the serpents that track the ships and eat the bodies thrown overboard are in fact young forms of dragons that have lost their memories and their ability to transform into adults. But at the same time that Malta helps rescue the last dragon from her ancient egg, Wintrow rescues the serpent with memories from its prison.

While the story starts off slow, there is a lot of dramatic tension as the Vestrit family struggles even before discovering the fate of the ship. It is interesting to see Malta grow as her aunt did in the previous book, but even more dramatically. The relationship between Althea and Brashen continues to grow as they take command of the liveship Paragon, which has long been mad. We discover a clue to its madness in its creation: it was manufactured from multiple dragon eggs which must have added too many conflicting memories. There is a lot of interesting politics in Bingtown and between that city and Jamaillia, though the Satrap is not as interesting as he could be due to his weakness. It is good that Serilla is with him to be both stronger and more interesting.

There is a shift in power from the older generation to the younger, as Reyn starts to take some control and Malta takes charge of her life. As the story progresses, different elements start to coalesce to make a satisfying conclusion, as well as a strong hook to the next book in the series. B+

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home