Liveship Traders, Review, Robin Hobb, The Mad Ship

Revised Review: Book Two in the Liveship Traders Trilogy, "The Mad Ship"

In my review of Ship of Magic (Book #1 in the Liveship Traders series), I explained how DD had introduced me to the work of Robin Hobb when I was keen to do some reading outside my ususal favourite genres. I grew to like that book more as I read further into it, and was keen to start this second book in the trilogy. I loathed spoilt brat Malta in Book 1. However, i n Book Two, she develops a maturity and depth of character that had me cheering for her, right to the bitter end. She’s a fighter, and is on the way to becoming one of my favourite literary heroines. The moment when she recognises herself  in her loathsome travelling companions is priceless. It’s matched when Malta finds herself rebuking them in exactly the way her grandmother tried to reason with her, back in Malta’s good old, bad old days. Every parent will have sympathised with Ronica at that time. When Malta is forced to experience what her Grandmother must have felt when faced with a lazy, truculent wastrel, it’s a clever use of character development.

There was only one thing about this book I didn’t like. That’s not bad for a volume running to 906 pages, but this failing in the text irritated me so much it pulled me right out of the reading experience whenever I encountered it. I lost count of the number of times the word “muck” cropped up. On pages 673/4 in particular, it appears no fewer than 6 times. Now, characters spend a lot of time burrowing in, and escaping from, well…colloids of dirt. There’s no escaping the substance, but Robin Hobb seems to have only one word for the stuff. In my ancient Thesaurus, there are a total of fourteen alternatives to the word “muck”. Not all would work in the context of this book, but surely replacing the word with mud, sludge, slime, slop, ooze and mire would bring a bit of variety to the text. I know all about repeating a word for dramatic effect, and so – in another context –  does Ms Robb. This is apparent from the amazingly beautiful effect created by the repetition of the word memory and memories when Malta is finding her way thrugh the underground caverns, but that isn’t what’s happening here, with “muck”. All the constant overuse of the word does is to convey the author’s personal revulsion in a way that broke the spell, distanced me from the fictional world and tied me far too personally in to Ms Robb’s mind.
If the Liveship Traders hasn’t already run to a second edition, could this be addressed in future printings?
That’s my only complaint, and I’m looking forward to reading the final book in this trilogy.

Book Review, Fantasy, Liveship Traders, Robin Hobb, Ship of Magic

Review – Ship Of Magic by Robin Hobb (#1 in the Liveship Traders Trilogy)

I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads (out of 5 stars), but please don’t let that rating stop you giving it a try. If you like fantasy, you’ll probably love it: Ship of Magic is well written, the characters are detailed and three-dimensional, and it lays the groundwork for a very popular trilogy. However, the only reason I read it was because I wanted to try something outside my usual field, and DD recommended it to me. I’m a stranger to this genre, so my views reflect this.

As a slow reader with limited opportunities to pick up a book, at first I found this one a real trial. The characters are all very realistic, but not necessarily in a good way. Although I warmed slightly to Kennit and Wintrow right from the start, and was really cheering for them both at the end (despite the fact they’re on opposing sides!) I found most of the characters (especially Kyle and Malta)  actively unlikeable. In fact, I  wanted to give some of them a good shake (Keffria for example, and the liveships at their most childish). I haven’t felt so annoyed by any fictional characters since meeting Lydia Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) and Dora Spenlow (David Copperfield), but I hope Robin Hobb can take that as a compliment. Malta’s deceit about the dress and her awful come-uppance were glorious, and I loved the scenes on board ship, especially the great chase at the end.

The only thing that stopped me giving this book three stars is because my difficulties with reading made me want to give up on it, at least to begin with. I need a book to grab me fast, and never let me go. Ship of Magic didn’t really do that for me until page 822, but I have to say that once I got to that point I read the remaining pages in one fell swoop, and asked DD if I could read the next in the trilogy.