In the world of fantasy created by Robin Hobb, ships come to life, pirates hunt down in open waters, serpent-like creatures follow them and eat life people in one bite, and women can rule the world. This first book of the Liveship Traders trilogy is a showcases family drama, the coming-of-age journey of a young man, and how much a human being is willing to risk to achieve what they want.
We follow several different points of views in this story, unlike Hobb’s first trilogy which is more intimate in the way that it only focuses on one main character and his thoughts. In this book, we have several main characters who are all very interesting. Althea Vestrit is a young woman who loves her ship and hopes to inherit the liveship after her father dies. Meanwhile her cousin Wintrow, is suddenly whisked away from his peaceful life n the monastery training to be a priest when his father, Althea’s sister’s husband, forces him to be in the liveship he is captain of. On land, Hobb offers a small glimpse of Althea’s mother and sister, who are struggling with the financial situation of their family added with the problems of their daughter who is starting to come of age. We also follow Kennit and Sorcor, pirates who plan on catching a liveship – something no pirate has ever done before. Vivacia, the liveship, is as much a character as any of the others are, with her own thoughts and feelings and magical attributes that are unique to this world alone.
What I love about this story is of course Hobb’s writing. She is masterful in weaving words together to really form an amazing scene that grips you from the beginning to the end. In this book her writing is not as huge part of the book as it was in the Farseer trilogy – here, her plotting excels. What I expected to happen didn’t really happen the way I predicted it to be, and all throughout the book you really are pulled into this world and these characters through her words, and you never know what happens next.
Who are you, I wonder, you creatures of flesh and blood and bone, born in your own bodies and doomed to perish when that flesh fails? And when I wonder those things, I fear, for you are so foreign to me, I cannot know what you will do to me. Yet when one of you is near, I feel you are woven of the same strand as I, that we are but extensions of a segmented life, and that together we complete one another. I feel a joy in your presence, because I feel my own life wax greater when we are close to one another.
I also really liked almost all the characters in this book. Granted, I wasn’t a huge fan of Wintrow in the beginning, but I began to really like his arc by the middle. I enjoyed his relationship with Vivacia as well. Additionally I didn’t really like Kennit as a person, but he has a very interesting story and personality, and I deifnitely look forward to what will he do in the future. Of course my favourite character so far is Althea. She is strong and lovely to read about, she is determined and not without her flaws, but I thoroughly enjoyed following her journey in this book. However I really disliked Keffria and her daughter’s story. I felt like they were very lukewarm characters and though I know their story will later play an important part in the overall plot, I still find them annoying and irritating.
Throughout the book I found that guessing where each character will go next and how they will discover themselves very fun, and the plot is definitely more integral in this book than before. Granted, it took a while before things started really going, and if you expect all the different characters to converge together early on in the book in a lovely way, you’d be disappointed. However it’s still exciting to try and find out how your characters will meet (again) and under what circumstances, so it’ll be really exciting to see everything come together in the following books.
Overall this first book in the trilogy was a great introduction to the world, the premise and a great starting point. I found the beginning to be a little confusing and slow, and I still feel like (like all of Hobb’s other books I’ve read) that this book could’ve been edited down and could do without some plot points Hobb decided to add in. However it’s still a very compelling read, filled with amazing adventures, and I look forward to following all these characters in the second book.