Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders, Book 1)

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9780002256735: Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders, Book 1)

The first of a new series from the author of the exciting Farseer trilogy. Set in the same world as the Assassin series, it tells of a group of traders, purveyors of rare goods which often border on the magical.

The new series is set to the south of Buckkeep. The story deals specifically with the fate of Althea Vestrit, who, on her father’s death, finds that she will not inherit the family liveship as she had expected. A liveship is a ship constructed of the mysterious wizardwood, one of the many strange wares that come from a Trader settlement far up the Rain River. A ship built of wizardwood comes to life after three generations in the same family have owned it. They are extremely valuable.

Meanwhile a plague of serpents is drawn into the Bingtown waters by Chalced’s increasing slave trade: the serpents track the slave ships by smell, awaiting the bodies of the many unfortunate slaves who don’t survive the trip. And there’s Kennit, the pirate who aspires to become the first King of the Pirates by choking off all trade to Bingtown and Chalced from the southern empire of Jamaillia.

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Review:

Robin Hobb, author of the Farseer trilogy, has returned to that world for a new series. Ship of Magic is a sea tale, reminiscent of Moby Dick and Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series in its details of shipboard life. It is also a fantasy adventure with sea serpents, pirates and all sorts of magic. The "liveships" have distinct personalities and partner with specific people, somewhat like Anne McCaffrey's Brain ships and their Brawns, though these are trading ships and have full crews.

Hobb has peopled the book with many wonderfully developed characters. Most of the primary ones are members of the Vestritts, an Old Trader family which owns the liveship Vivacia. Their stories are intercut with those of Kennit, the ambitious pirate Brashen, the disinherited scion of another family who served on the Vestritt's ship, and Paragon, an abandoned old liveship believed to be insane. The sentient sea serpents have their own story which is hinted at as well.

Though Ship of Magic is full of action, none of the plot lines is resolved in this book. Readers who resent being left with many questions and few answers after almost 700 pages should think twice before starting, or wait until the rest of the series is out so that their suspense won't be too prolonged. But Hobb's writing draws you in and makes you care desperately about what will happen next, the mark of a terrific storyteller. --Nona Vero

Review:

‘Refreshingly original’
Janny Wurts

‘Robin Hobb writes achingly well’
SFX

‘Assassin’s Quest achieves a bittersweet, powerful
complexity rare in fantasy’
LOCUS

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