A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 103: Ship of Magic, Chapter 2

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


The next chapter, “Liveships,” opens with Brashen Trell waking from a dream of sea-serpents to familiar surroundings aboard the liveship Vivacia. He considers his situation, now diminished after the illness of his former captain, Ephron Vestrit, and the demotion to second mate under his new captain, Kyle Haven. His history as a son of a leading Trader family receives a gloss, as does his first encounter with a sea-serpent as a junior sailor–and his realization that the serpent worked some strange compulsion upon him.

One of the titular liveships, but not the only one…
Vivacia by FloorSteinz on DeviantArt, used for commentary

Althea Vestrit, also aboard the Vivacia, considers her situation and the changes to it as she is summoned to Kyle’s cabin. He upbraids her for her initiative aboard ship and for her desire to captain the vessel, noting that she will be replaced by one of his sons when the Vivacia next sets sail. He also confines her to quarters for the remainder of the trip back to their home port of Bingtown. He also strikes her for words spoken drunkenly in a tavern, and he slut-shames her.

In her cabin, Althea considers what she knows of the ship’s history, the enlivening effects of family deaths upon the Vivacia‘s decks. She contrasts the familial tie with Kyle’s mercenary tendencies–pronounced even among trading families–and arrives at the conclusion that any defiance from her would only hurt the crew before looking ahead to returning to her home.

Ashore, the liveship Paragon listens as a pair of people–Davad and Mingsley–approach him on the beach and discuss selling him off. Mingsley is taken aback by Paragon‘s condition, which Davad explains as peculiar to the wizardwood of the ship’s construction; it holds up far better than regular wood, and some ships made of it are able to speak and move of their own accord. Paragon does not do so while the men are present, but after they leave, the ship voices his interest in Mingsley’s plan to wreck him for salvage rather than refit him.

Brashen’s story of his encounter with the sea-serpent recalls Verity’s work with the Skill against the Red-Ship Raiders prior to his expedition to the Skill-quarry. It is another tie between the series, made early on, and one the points toward other Elderlings works that have come into print since Ship of Magic and the Liveship Traders novels. I am in doubt that those novels were intended when Ship of Magic was in draft, but I did read my Wimsatt and Beardsley, thanks.

I’ll note, also, that there seems to be less fanart that deals with the Liveship Traders novels than with the Farseer, Tawny Man, or Fitz and Fool books. Some of that is understandable; the Farseer novels are older and have had more time to accumulate fan-works. But the Tawny Man and Fitz and Fool novels are younger, and they seem to a casual search to have as much or more, and the Dragon Keeper books seem to have even less. As I write this, I’m not sure the implications, but it might be worth commenting on at another time.

My parents’ anniversary is tomorrow; help me get them something nice?

One Fine Hill Country Morning

I‘ve lived in the Texas Hill Country more years than I haven’t since 1988, and it’s a fact of life that, even in the “civilized” suburbs of the large cities like San Antonio, nature’s not too far away. The part of the Hill Country in which I live–just outside Kerrville–is not one of those suburbs; Kerrville is not a large city by any stretch, at least not by today’s standards, and it makes much of “still being” a small town. It follows, then, that nature is even closer in Kerrville than in a place like Leon Valley or Helotes–and even closer outside the city limits.

https://wildlifecenteroftexas.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/opossum-teeth.jpg
Yeah, about like this.
Image from the Wildlife Center of Texas, used for commentary.

Sometimes, it gets even closer than that.

A little while ago, now, I was woken from a fitful sleep by the sound of something crashing around in the bathroom right off of my bedroom. Grumbling about the cat my wife and I have causing trouble, I groggily staggered towards the room, and, just as I flipped on the light switch, I saw the cat come out of the cabinets under the bathroom sinks. His tail was held high, as was his head–and, dangling from his jaws like a kitten in its mother’s mouth, was a juvenile opossum. It was maybe nine inches from nose to haunches, its naked tail limply dragging close to the same length, and I was reminded of noises from nights before of small, clawed feet scurrying in or on the ductwork underneath the mobile home where I live with my wife and daughter.

We’re outside town, not far from a creek, so we get a fair amount of wildlife on the double lot we rent. Deer are in the yard most nights, and I’ve seen signs of armadillos in the yard. There’s a colony of feral cats near us, too, to judge by how many of them I see in and around the place, though I’m not sure where all it is. And we’ve had opossums before; our dog has gotten pretty good at snatching them up the two or three times she’s found them in the dog run. So, in one sense, it wasn’t a surprise to see the cat come up with one, in turn. But in another, it’s damned shocking to have one of them pop up in the house and in the cat’s mouth at a quarter to five in the morning.

I guess I wasn’t quite awake enough yet to be properly startled, though, because I remember being pretty calm–if annoyedly grumbling–as I told the cat to drop it (which it did, as I realize now should’ve been a surprise) and got some bags set up to take the opossum out, as well as the broom and dustpan. By the time I got back to the bathroom with the lot, though, the opossum had roused and backed itself into a corner under a cabinet-lip. The cat was poking at it, of course, and the opossum was not only hissing, but growling, baring its little goblin teeth at the much bigger murder machine that stared intently at it. When I set down the bags and nudged it with the broom to try to get it into them, it turned and growled its little goblin growl at me, in turn; the cat looked at me as if to ask “You gonna eat that?”

The opossum wasn’t the smartest creature; as I nudged it, it turned, backing out away from the corner–and into the bags. I could tell it wasn’t hurt much if at all, so, after I got it bagged up, I took it out to the far corner of the yard and let it go. So it was a happy ending, more or less, but still not the way I’d like to wake up again.

Fund me getting some traps set up?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 102: Ship of Magic, Chapter 1

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


The first chapter, “Of Priests and Pirates,” opens with Kennit walking along a path on Others Island, considering his trip there and the tales of others who had visited the island. He and his companion, Gankis, confer as they proceed, Gankis relating lore surrounding the island. Kennit sends Gankis to retrieve an object from the cliffs above the beach; Gankis returns with a strange glass bauble. Kennit sends Gankis back out and considers the wizardwood charm he had had wrought for him. He also walks the beach, finding more and keeping a ruby earring.

Oh, this one wil be trouble.
Captain Kennit by RZ-Seven on DeviantArt, used for commentary

Elsewhere, Wintrow Vestrit finds himself enthralled by work on a piece of stained glass. He is roused from his focus by the priest Berandol, who confers with him about the work he was doing and the flow-state in which he was doing it. They walk together for a time before falling into conversation about theological points. During their conversation, Berandol lets slip that Wintrow is being summoned home to attend upon the death of his grandfather, and Wintrow muses on life among his family. Berandol also remarks on political and economic matters before noting that Wintrow must depart presently, and he heads off to prepare for the journey.

Back on Others Island, Gankis rejoins Kennit as Kennit confronts one of the Others that gives the island its name. Gankis surrenders more findings from the island to Kennit, and Kennit comes to recognize the ensorcellment the Other is attempting against him. He receives the information he seeks, and he destroys the bauble before taunting the Other before he and Gankis withdraw. Gankis asks for clarification he does not receive, and Kennit begins to suspect another ensorcellment. When he sends Gankis on an errand, the wizardwood charm speaks, divulging information to Kennit that sends him back on his return to his ship. Gankis rejoins him in haste and fear, and the two effect passage back to the ship, the Marietta. Kennit resumes his decks in triumph.

There are clear connections made between the present chapter and the events of the Farseer novels. The Buck River and the ceasing of trade from it occasioned by the Red-Ship War get explicit mention. Too, the flow-state in which Wintrow is when he is introduced seems very much like the exercise of Skill, or, at least, a similar magic. So is the glamour with which the Other confronts Kennit. And those ties are juxtaposed with the Others, themselves reinforcement of the non-humanity presented in the prologue to the novel.

Indeed, much is made in the chapter of juxtaposition and contradiction. The religion in the structure of which Wintrow operates makes explicit use of contradictory, paradoxical statements as teaching devices. Kennit muses on similar paradoxes on Others Island. What seems to emerge is that, just as foresight is a major trope of the Farseer novels, paradox and puzzling will be of the Liveship Traders. And that is a promising thing.

New month, new contribution?