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Mad Ship,
The Liveship Traders, Book 2

Robin Hobb
Bantam Spectra Books, 656 pages

Mad Ship
Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb, aka Megan Lindholm, was born in California in 1952. At the age of about 9 she moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she graduated from high school. Later, after a brief stint at the University of Denver where she majored in Mass Communications, she married and moved back up to Alaska, where she started writing under her maiden name. She started publishing her short stories about twenty years ago in small magazines. Shortlisted for the 1989 Nebula Awards in the categories of novella ("A Touch of Lavender" -- also a 1990 Hugo Award nominee) and novelette ("Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man"), she was also nominated for the Nebula for her short story "Cut." She lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Robin Hobb Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Robin Hobb
ISFDB Bibliography: Megan Lindholm
Robin Hobb Tribute Site
Another SF Site Review: The Farseer: Assassin's Quest
SF Site Review: The Farseer: Royal Assassin
SF Site Review: The Farseer Trilogy
SF Site Review: Ship of Magic

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Wayne MacLaurin

"Oh boy... pirates, talking ships, magic, sea serpents, slave revolts, dashing heroes, bloody battles and lusty maidens...", was my reaction to Ship of Magic, the first book in Robin Hobb's The Liveship Traders trilogy.

For Mad Ship, the second volume, I'd have to rephrase that comment to read, "Oh boy... pirates, talking ships, magic, sea serpents, slave revolts, dashing heroes, bloody battles, lusty maidens and DRAGONS!!"

Yep. dragons... and it doesn't take Hobb very long to throw this new element in either. Actually, it's foreshadowed pretty well in the first book (and on the cover, now that I go back and take another look) but, as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Mad Ship continues the tale of the Vestrit family and their struggles to survive following the death of the family patriarch. Althea has continued her quest to regain the captaincy of the liveship Vivacia and the pirate Kennit continues his campaign against the slavers and his dream of a kingdom. A couple other major storylines are started as well which only increases the feeling of depth to the story that Hobb is so good at.

But, rather than being simply a bridge between the first and last volumes of the trilogy, Mad Ship takes the story in entirely new directions. Kennit manages to capture Vivacia and Althea and Brashen must try to retake her. Meanwhile, Malta, the youngest of the Vestrits, continues her spoiled brat behaviour only to have the harsh realities of what being a Bingtown Old Trader means come crashing into her sheltered life. And, as the title suggests, the mad liveship Paragon takes on a major role.

The tale does not simply add to the plot: Mad Ship is an integral part of the story. The origins of the Others, glimpses into Kennit's past and the secrets of the Rain Wild Traders are revealed and, suddenly, the story is so much clearer. The result leaves the reader breathless, scarcely able to finish reading a page before leaping to the next.

Robin Hobb just keeps getting better and better.

There isn't a character in Mad Ship that is flat or inanimate. Everything Hobb puts to paper comes alive, whether it's a struggle for power aboard a ship or the haunted demons of Paragon's tortured soul.

I was pleasantly surprised by Ship of Magic, but I was downright stunned by Mad Ship. I can only imagine, with great anticipation, where Robin Hobb will take us in the final volume of The Liveship Traders.

Copyright © 1999 by Wayne MacLaurin

Wayne MacLaurin is a regular SF Site reviewer. More of his opinions are available on our Book Reviews pages.

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