Monday, 22 July 2013

The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

5 stars

Earlier this year I read my first Robin Hobb series - The Farseer Trilogy. Immediately won over, I've now set myself the mission of reading every Robin Hobb I can get my hands on. My second foray into her world, The Liveship Traders, did not disappoint, and soon became one of my favourite fantasy series (keeping George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie in good company).

Aside from the fantastic world built by Hobb, and the fantastic storytelling talent she brings to the table, one of the reasons I so loved this particular series was down to the women. In a genre that can quite often be something of a sausage-fest, it's both very refreshing and very awesome to come across a series that not only features a wealth of strong women but has them at the heart of the books, driving the action. Because of this, I've given this series a theme song:

For iPhone/iPad click here.

Jumping up and down on my chair while twirling my bra might be a little over the top, and unpleasant for any witnesses, but it's a complete joy after also spending so much time in other genres (cough, paranormal/YA, cough) with heroines who make my shit itch.

Interested? Then read on for my reviews of each book in the series...

Ship of Magic
(read in April 2013)

A fantasy sea adventure starring Liveships - sentient ships crafted from wizardwood and each bound to a blood member of the families that own them - I wouldn't have thought I'd find myself feeling so strongly for what are, essentially, a bunch of boats, but that's where I found myself, to the point I even blubbed on their behalf on more than one occasion (especially poor, tragic Paragon).

I'm even more invested in the other characters - Althea, and her quest to retrieve her rightful ship, her bullying brother-in-law Kyle and his desperately-in-need-of-a-good-slapping daughter Malta, Amber (who I desperately want to know more about), and all of the others. Not forgetting the buccaneer who'll stop at nothing to own a liveship and become King of the Pirates - Captain Kennit, who despite himself can't help but make people love him and things change for the better, all while being a manipulative, conniving, selfish and hilarious bastard. At this point, I have as big a crush on him as Etta does.

I have no idea where things are going to go from here, but I'm expecting to grin, rage and weep my way to the end just like I have in this. I'd try and eke the experience out a little, but I'm way too greedy for more. I'm rushing right back to my Kindle for the next.

The Mad Ship

Brilliant, for all the reason why I loved the first so much, and more.

Captain Kennit finally has his hands on a liveship, and though Wintrow has his doubts Vivacia is both thrilled and enamoured with her new captain, while at home Althea embarks on a rescue mission on our other favourite liveship, and Malta is forced to grow up.

As engrossing, compelling and emotional as its predecessor (including one part where I nearly threw the book across the room)...

...this entry gave us more of the bigger picture, making clear the relationship between the great sea serpents and the liveships, and making sure that all of its characters get to grow and learn while you understand things from all points of view, making the 'right' outcome very un-black and white.

I'm also completely fangirling over the journeys of both Malta and Keffria - if you'd told me how much I'd love Malta after the first book I'd have laughed in your face, but Hobb has done a fantastic job of showing the growth of her character, and from beginning as a spoilt little shrew she now promises to become a truly formidable woman.

On to the next!

Ship of Destiny

We've finally reached the end of this brilliant, emotionally bruising trilogy that I've raged, snarled and sobbed my way through. The Vivacia is still in the hands of Captain Kennit, leading Althea, Brashen and Amber to sail off in pursuit on board the Paragon. Bingtown is being torn apart by the Chalcedeans, as well as the strife between the groups of people living there, and having fled the danger there Malta now finds herself lost with the Satrap in the aftermath of the ruin of Trehaug.

Laid clear is the dark truth to the relationship between the liveships and the serpents, the bond between Paragon and his missing part, and that I was a complete fool to have thought that Kennit was a fun, if bastardly, character who did good things accidentally, as he crossed the line into you're-dead-to-me bastardry. 

This series was very well put together with a world and characters that felt real (even if I didn't like them all), to the point that while reading these books I've turned into a little ball of stress and anger, railing at every injustice I come across. 

A big investment, both time-wise (these are big, fat books) and emotionally (see above), I highly recommend this series. I'll be coming back to Robin Hobb as often as I can.

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