A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 106: Ship of Magic, Chapter 5

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The next chapter, “Bingtown,” opens with Althea rehearsing her circumstances since her confinement to quarters. She has come to feel a deeper connection with the Vivacia and with her ancestors who have died on her decks, and what she learns from the connection leaves her with a greater appreciation for the ship–and for all ships.

She figures heavily in the novel.
Althea Vestrit by FleurStolk on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

The ship’s second mate, Brashen Trell, comes to check up on her, having heard that she fares poorly. Althea sets his concerns aside, but, when the Vivacia begins to come into her home port of Bingtown and Althea dresses to disembark, she sees the truth of those concerns in herself. She is further disheartened when Brahsen arrives, under orders, to remove her possessions from her cabin. An uncomfortable trip to the Vestrit home follows.

Althea’s arrival at her childhood home is not more comfortable. Her sister, Keffira, effectively ignores her, and the household staff does not recognize her. Ronica greets her, though, if bluntly, and sends her to visit Ephron in their bedchamber. He greets her as best he can, but he is in the final stages of his final illness, and he knows it, bidding her take him to the Vivacia. She rushes off to have the ship made ready to receive him, meeting with some small resistance along the way.

The rest of the family follows, Wintrow not understanding what he is to do with himself in the strange situation. The changes to his family in his absence strike him strangely, and his own liminal status as a priest makes fitting in harder for him than needs to be. And he is swept along by the family’s preparations for Ephron’s death.

Brashen wakes Althea from where she has succumbed to her grief aboard ship. As she rouses, he considers the older sailors aboard her decks and how many of them have no other home. Including him.

Hobb demonstrates a preference for emblematic names in works focused on the Six Duchies; it is not outside expectation that she would do something of the sort in other novels in the same milieu. Certainly the Divvytown that gives the previous chapter its title is something of a description of the place; it is a town in which spoils are divvied up, clearly. So I thought I would take a look at meanings for “Bingtown”; one of them I found attested is…interesting, certainly, being cited as a euphemism for intoxication. Of course, that definition postdates the novel by a few years, and even if it can be accepted that a term is in use before it is attested, it seems a bit of a stretch to think that being stoned is the image that most fits the actions of Bingtown.

Perhaps a more apt reference is to a piece in Ed Blair’s Kansas Zephyrs, “The Bingtown Band.” While the poem itself is perhaps best taken as a send-up of amateur rural musicianship, the line that “‘CASH IS KING’ is their new motto,” with the capitalization in the original and therefore prominent to even a casual glance, seems apt enough for a city founded and governed by self-styled Traders.

I continue to appreciate your backing.

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