It was with great pleasure and many expectations that I returned to The Liveship Traders series. And once again, Robin Hobb doesn't disappoint! Far from it, she manages to raise this adventure to a new level!:-)
After reading Mad Ship, I can now claim with certainty that Ship of Magic was a vast introduction to a somewhat complex weave of interesting plots and subplots. This is quite all right, since this is how I love my fantasy novels!
However, once more I must warn people who are more one-plot oriented that this series might not be for them. Also, the story is told from several characters' POVs. I know that some people find that annoying. They say that it affects the pace of the story. But I believe that it's actually much more interesting to be exposed to different perspectives. It allows us to perceive events that are occurring from distinct angles. So the fact that Hobb jumps from character to character, making us see the world and events through their eyes, was not for me something which was to the detriment of the novel.
And speaking of characters, Hobb proves once again that her characterizations are of the first order. One reviewer one said that The Farseer trilogy possessed a deep, involved humanity, or some such praise. Well, the same can be said of The Liveship Traders.
But as great as the characterizations are, it's the fact that you see the characters grow which is very satisfying. It's a testimony to Hobb's talent. Reacting to what befalls them, all the main characters alter their perspectives and show signs of personal growth. To use the expression "three-dimensional" appear to be, to some extent at least, an understatement.
Robin Hobb's prose flows seamlessly, making reading this book quite a treat. Wonderfully written is the only compliment that comes to mind.;-) Although I have to point out that some characters use too perfect a language, sometimes making you shake your head because it doesn't ring quite true. Kennit is a perfect example of that. The man is a pirate, yet he possesses a vocabulary that puts most scholars to shame!
I have often heard women complaining about the fact that there are so few fantasy novels written by women with strong and believable female characters. Well ladies, if that is the case, then this series is for you. The Vestrit family, which is at the heart of this story, offers us the POVs of 4 different female characters that span 3 generations. And I simply love how the author makes us see events through their eyes, letting us discover more about their mindsets and philosophies. There is definitely a gap between the different generations, and it's neat to see how Hobb juggles with that.
Again, this trilogy continues to be the most innovative fantasy series I have read in years. And the high sea elements, which so concerned me before I decided to give Ship of Magic a chance, continue to make this wonderful tale unique. Mad Ship is as richly detailed as its predecessor. And Hobb's evident knowledge of the sea adds a certain flavor that you cannot find anywhere else.
Mad Ship follows the adventures of all the characters which were introduced in Ship of Magic. Hence, we learn a lot more of Althea and Brashen's plan. Aided by the mysterious Amber, they will attempt what appears to be impossible. Wintrow is still torn between his vocation and life aboard the Liveship. Captain Kennit continues to try to fulfill what he believes to be his destiny. Much to Ronica and Keffria Vestrit's chagrin, Malta may have no choice but to marry the youngest son of a powerful Rain Wild Traders' family. And deep in the Rain Wild, ancient secrets found in a buried Elderling city reveal the biggest secret of them all. And the sea serpent are desperately searching for the elusive She Who Remembers. For if they cannot find her, their entire race may soon face extinction.
Not only do we learn more about the Rain Wild and the secrets of the Liveships in Mad Ship, but we are finally introduced to the Satrap. But all is not well in Jamaillia City. It appears that a number of nobles are conspiring with Chalced to have the young ruler assassinated. And one of the Satrap's Companions of his Heart shows much interest in Bingtown.
So as you can see, there are several plots and subplots filling this volume. And unlike the previous ending, there is some plot resolution at the end of this one. With the promise of many more things to come, of course!;-)
Once more, I could not put this book down. I recommend this series to anyone who is looking for something well written, with great characterizations, and unusual settings. The exotic locations and the high seas make this series quite special.:-)
Read it!!! Period!;-) There is no doubt about it: Robin Hobb is part of the elite of fantasy fiction authors.
The final verdict: 9/10