The next chapter, “A Change of Fortunes,” opens with Brashen approaching the derelict liveship Paragon. He banters with the ship briefly before boarding with permission and returning to a rack he had established on a previous excursion. The ship is strangely pleased to have him aboard again.
Kennit and Sorcor confer aboard the Marietta. Kennit again pushes his idea of pirate civilization, and he begins to win Sorcor over to it, the added details presented doing more to persuade the mate of the captain’s plans. Sorcor’s vehemence against slavers surprises Kennit, but he agrees to the amendment on which Sorcor insists. Sorcor blanches a bit at Kennit’s plan to take a liveship, but he strikes a deal to pursue a slave-ship for every liveship they pursue–one to which Kennit agrees.
Wintrow faces his family as his father, Kyle, insists that he sail aboard the Vivacia instead of returning to his monastery. Wintrow tries to refuse, but he is knocked unconscious by his father.
The chapter delves further into the overt politicism of the Liveship Traders novels, especially in Sorcor’s emphatic assertions regarding slavery. The chapter affirms his experience as legal property and begins to touch on the horrors of such a status; no words can truly convey such horrors, of course, but the descriptions of the tanning work to which Sorcor was forced and the conditions aboard the slave ships are particularly evocative. (They are more so amid the current-to-this-writing protests of George Floyd’s murder, Breonna Taylor’s, and far, far too many others’.) That Hobb is pulling from depictions of the Middle Passage is clear, and it is equally clear that slavery is being presented as evil even by the standards of the evil.
I cannot help but note, also, Kennit’s reluctance to engage slavers in the way Sorcor calls for him to do (ultimately successfully, it must be noted, but still). Kennit drapes himself in trappings of wealth gotten through effort, yes, but still stolen, and he frames his plans in terms that read to me remarkably like the putative American Dream; what he describes rings of suburbia in my ears. Yet for all that, Kennit resists the idea of freeing slaves and ransoming slavers, preferring the economic benefits of interfering with the slave trade to the moral imperatives of interdicting it. Again, while such issues were far from inaccessible in the context of composition, present circumstances call for a much more emphatic, and much less sympathetic, reading. Kennit may not be a slaver himself, but he is okay with slavery–so long as it makes him money, and it is only when his continued tolerance of slavery begins to threaten his economic plans that he relents and agrees to work against it.
More people need to be better about it than Kennit than are.