A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 109: Ship of Magic, Chapter 8

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

The following chapter, “Night Conversations,” starts with Keffria tending to her mother and her children before slipping into bed with her husband, Kyle. After they reconsummate their marriage, they fall to talking about the events surrounding the funeral. Kyle inveighs against Althea, and Keffria finds herself in agreement with him, musing on the “man’s load of decisions and work” her mother had faced instead of the genteel lives of other Trader women.

The lady of the chapter
A portrait of Keffria Vestrit by electorpeach on Tumblr, used for commentary

The conversation turns to Wintrow. Keffria’s hopes for and pride in him are rehearsed, only to be thwarted by Kyle rising, ostensibly to check on Althea, whom Brashen is escorting back to her family’s home. As they proceed, they banter–more drunkenly on Althea’s part than on Brashen’s. Althea vows to reclaim the Viviacia and to make Brashen her first mate when she is captain. Brashen makes note of a woodcarver’s shop–Amber’s–as they pass, and Brashen begins to muse again on his situation.

When Brashen delivers Althea to her family’s door, Kyle greets them–harshly, going so far as to swing on Brashen. The commotion rouses Ronica, who rushes in and quashes the upset, dismissing all present. Brashen stalks off towards the Paragon.

Elsewhere, the serpent Maulkin wrestles with memory, and the serpents he leads press on northward.

The present chapter shows more of the more overtly political / critical nature of the Liveship Traders novels. Keffria’s musings on her mother’s work and Kyle’s blatantly paternalistic, patriarchal attitude are foregrounded, and neither is portrayed particularly pleasantly. Keffria’s musings come off as naive and spoiled (particularly when read against Hobb’s biography, and while biographical criticism is fraught as a sole means for determining meaning, it does have some value in discussing contexts of composition), while Kyle’s conduct is stereotypical in form. Internalized and externalized patriarchy are on negative display, and not inappropriately, maugre the heads of no few who bewail “social justice warriors” in their purportedly escapist works.

It is still the case, unfortunately, that only escapist works seem apt to engage with issues of parity; the “real” world does not do much more, in the aggregate, than pay lip-service to it, when it even does so much as that. (Yes, I am aware there are exceptions. The overall tendency remains in place, however.) One of the things that escapist works do is show what could be; one thing no few works do, even those that purport to be nonfiction, is present what their writers think ought to be. For those who look at relative parity as being objectionable, I have many words, though few enough that I would include here; there are other places for me to say such things than this, and fog the air blue with those exhalations. I look with hope for such things, though, and if it makes me a fool to trumpet it, then I will be a fool, for I will not stop winding that particular horn.

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