Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
Digital Audiobook narrated by Anne Flosnik
Published by Voyager on March 1, 1998
Series: Liveship Traders #1
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, Fiction, High Fantasy
Length: 880 pages or 35 hours, 20 minutes
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Wizardwood, a sentient wood. The most precious commodity in the world. Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds.
But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven...
Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.
I’m very apprehensive when it comes to adult fantasy. It’s a genre that takes itself really seriously, and inevitably there are graphic, unnecessary sex scenes. While this is all well and good for people who enjoy that, I personally prefer books that are a little lighter and skip the sex scenes. I mention this, because Ship of Magic is adult fantasy and I was really nervous going in because… you never know.
Here’s the thing, though. Ship of Magic also promised me pirates and I have a weakness for pirates. Give me a story with pirates and I am 150% in to read it. And loves, I was not disappointed.
This novel has the best nautical aesthetic. Most the book takes place aboard one ship or another. There’s your standard wooden ships, sure, but there are also ship made of wizard wood that can be “quickened” and come to life and that’s so cool. The source of all peculiar, magical items here is a mysterious place called the Rainwild, a place we hear about but don’t see. What we know about magic and the Rainwild is that they come at a terrible price. So there’s a lot at stake there.
Ship of Magic has a lot of POVs. Most of the POVs come from the Vestrit family, and some POVs are better than others. I loved Althea because of her spirit, and I enjoyed Winthow because of his deep moral dilemmas. Kyle made me so so angry – he was a selfish, sexist pig who constantly made unforgivable choices. So the characters run the gamut. I also really loved the POVs coming from the Liveships – Vivacia and Paragorn are primaries here, but Ophelia enters near the end of the book. I think my favorie part of the characters in general is that you know that we’ve only skimmed the surface and there’s so much more to come.
A book of this length can be a challenge, because the story can drag. Not the case here. Like The Name of the Wind, I found that Ship of Magic flowed so easily that I didn’t realize that I was listening to a 35 hour book. Loves, I finished this in five days, making it seven hours of listening a day, and I breezed through. The pacing is great, and the POVs switch at just the right time to maintain interest. This book has the start of so may journeys, and I want to see where it all goes. Honestly, even the bad POVs? I just want to see justice served upon these horrible individuals. So I’m here for it.
Some last minute standard warnings? There’s a couple of quick, graphic sex scenes. Kyle, as I mentioned, is sexist… Kennit is too, though not to the same extent. There’s also conversations about slavery and keeping women at home “where they belong”. I do want to make it clear – the problematic views are kept by the villains. But they are POVs and the content is there, and it’s worth mentioning.
Honestly, as a whole, I’m so intrigued and impressed. I loved the themes of good and evil, right and wrong, and if it’s worth crossing moral lines to survive. I’m here for the variety of characters and creepy serpents chasing liveships and the storms that threaten to run ships aground and pirate vibes and all of it. Sure, there were moments I didn’t like, but they comprised less than 1% of the novel. I will absolutely be continuing the series, and I’ll most likely check out more of Hobb’s books.
If you like fantasy and pirates you’ve got to add Ship of Magic to your TBR.
Do you read adult fantasy? I’ve found that the biggest difference between YA and adult fantasy has been the intimate relationships… and I like YA better? Still, adult fantasy has got great epic fantasy storylines – which ones do you like?