A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 131: Ship of Magic, Chapter 30

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


The next chapter , “Defiance and Alliance,” opens with an account of the beginnings of trouble aboard the new slaveship Vivacia. As slaves are being loaded onto her, one opts to die quickly, jumping overboard and drowning as the chains about him pull him under. Serpents rouse to eat the flesh, and Torg lashes the slaves together in anger. Wintrow sorrows with the others’ dehumanizing sorrows, which the ship causes him to feel more keenly, and most of the crew begins to chafe at the change to their work.

#jani khuprus from Katrin Sapranova
The fateful meeting…
Image by Katrin Sapranova on Tumblr, used for commentary

The Vivacia considers her captain and his jealous ire at Wintrow. She has the captain bring the boy to her as she considers her changed relationship to him more closely. His attempt to leave has hurt her, but she makes herself something of a nuisance until he is brought to her.

In Bingtown, Keffria and Ronica make ready to receive the Rain Wild Festrew Traders; their preparations are noted. What she knows of the Festrews, as well as of the situation with Malta’s dream-box, is rehearsed, as are her continuing annoyances with Ronica, and she longs for her husband to take over running things. At length, the Rain Wild Traders arrive–but it is not only a Festrew, but Jani Khuprus, as well, whom the Vestrit women greet.

After pleasantries are exchanged, the reason for the Khuprus visit is made clear: the dream-box. Khuprus, through her son, Reyn, is aware that the box has been opened and the contained dream shared. More, the debt for the Vivacia that had been owed to the Festrews has been transferred to the Khuprus Trader Family; the debt would have been forgiven as a marriage gift. With Malta not yet eligible for marriage, however, the arrangement is in substantial peril, and tensions suddenly rise sharply. Caolwn Festrew brokers a compromise, however, to which Keffria agrees.

For all the problems inherent in making marriage an economic contract, the present chapter does present an interesting conundrum in the interaction between economics and amorousness. Admittedly, the amorousness in question is itself problematic, evoking the doomed and hormone-driven inanity of Romeo & Juliet in a twenty-year-old becoming infatuated with a girl barely into adolescence (Caolwn Festrew’s comment about being married at fifteen notwithstanding). Even so, it highlights the fundamental irrationality of finance–namely that people, even people as ostensibly money-savvy as a group that defines itself via its mercantilism, are not rational actors.

It also brings up an interesting bit of anachronism. While the Six Duchies, existing in the same narrative universe, appears to operate at a nebulously medieval European level of technology, the Traders and Jamaillia operate at what seems for the most part to be the Age of Sail, some centuries later. (The lack of gunpowder weaponry continues to be an interesting quirk, to be sure.) The disparity can be explained in some of the same ways that the technological disparities between the Mediterranean region and northern Europe during the traditional later medieval period can, of course, but neither of the periods was noted for encouraging romantic marriage among its upper classes–which the Traders are. I find myself again strangely in mind of a romance novel as I reread the chapter, and I have to wonder at some of the genre boundaries that seem still to linger for me.

I don’t suppose I could get a little help?

2 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 131: Ship of Magic, Chapter 30

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