A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 113: Ship of Magic, Chapter 12

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


The next chapter, “Of Derelicts and Slaveships,” starts with the Paragon recalling times underwater, interacting with serpents. He is interrupted by Althea, with whom he begins to converse, if sullenly. She asks if she can sleep aboard him, and he agrees, though he notes that Brashen is staying aboard him, as well. She boards him for a night’s berthing, anyway, and he reflects on their earlier relationship.

Quite the figurehead.
Paragon by willowplwn on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Brashen soon returns and makes for his own bunk. Althea asks for his advice, and he advises her to return home, and swiftly, noting that his own situation is in part because he waited too long to do so, himself. He also notes to her that she will have trouble finding work aboard ship because of her family connections, the Traders being fractious. He also warns her of the dangers of being a woman among a mostly-male crew, and she despairs of her course of action.

Elsewhere, the Marietta closes on a slaveship after failing to catch a liveship, the Ringsgold. Kennit and Sorcor confer regarding the pursuit, Kennit assigning it to Sorcor. He watches, coldly calculating, as his mate conducts a successful capture, and his attentions turn towards the serpents that follow the slaver. He finds himself entranced by them until the battle is ended, and he finds himself rebuking Sorcor after the mate reports the victory and its cost to the crew. He also assigns the taken ship to another crew member and considers the need to eliminate Sorcor.

The chapter makes a motion towards Althea adopting a trans identity. A number of scholars speak to such concerns in Hobb, though most focus on the Six Duchies novels rather than the Liveship Traders works. Katavić, Melville, Mohon, Räsänen, Sanderson, and Schouwenaars each offers an example; I need not reiterate what they have already aptly discussed, though what they do discuss begins to apply in the present chapter.

The chapter also reinforces earlier impressions of Kennit. He remains more concerned with money than with people–unsurprisingly for a pirate, of course, but still stunning against what he himself admits is a horrible situation. Similarly, the cooling regard in which he holds his mate is striking, even if not unsurprising for so mercenary a person in so mercenary a profession and position as piracy. The mate is a threat to him, particularly after the boost of a successful raid he led, and such a position as a pirate captain’s is not a stable one. Parts of the old internet chestnut The Evil Overlord List come to mind, particularly the comments about lieutenants (and I admit to being happy still to be able to bring that bit into the work I do; it remains fun, and I am not doing this for money or acclaim at this point, even if a bit of funding would be welcome).

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