The chapter that follows, “Pirates and Captives,” opens on the deck of the Vivacia, where Kyle rages against Sa’Adar as the Marietta draws near to the liveship. The Vivacia panics as the bodies of her former crew are put overboard and the serpents feast upon them; Wintrow maneuvers to comfort the ship as the pirate crew boards and is welcomed by Sa’Adar and his comrades.
Wintrow’s presence is noted, and he dickers for his life and his father’s with Kennit, aided by the angry intercession of the Vivacia, herself. Neither Sorcor nor Etta are entirely pleased by the situation, but Kennit seems pleased with the spine Wintrow shows and agrees to decidedly dangerous terms. Kyle is taken into custody again, and Kennit assumes the captain’s cabin as his own after presenting himself to the speaking figurehead of the ship.
Kennit courts the Vivacia audaciously, provoking strange responses from the ship, from Wintrow, and from Etta. He then assumes the captain’s cabin, surveying and inventorying it as Etta frets and fusses. Meanwhile, Kyle lies sullenly in what had been Gantry’s cabin, Wintrow tending his injuries. And the ship considers the sudden shift in her circumstances, taken but now crewed well again, remembering the sweet words Kennit had spoken to her.
The chapters have shortened as the book has drawn to its close, feeling somewhat rushed as they have come to the penultimate section of the novel. Where there has been a series of actions, the shortening makes sense; it reinforces the jagged, choppy nature of many things happening all at once, the layout of the novel reinforcing the effect of the events within the narrative on the reader.
In the present chapter, however, things feel somewhat rushed; for one thing, Wintrow seems to have grown courage and solidity almost overnight, whereas he had earlier been most frequently taken with analysis paralysis or had talked himself out of effectiveness in the name of righteousness. Having lived through puberty (somehow), I can attest that attitudes and emotional states can and do change wildly from day to day and even hour to hour–but even so, the shift seems extreme.
The rush is something I have noted in Hobb’s work before, and it is something I have found annoying in other properties, as well. I will admit, though, that that may well be a matter of personal taste and practice; when I read for pleasure (which does not happen as much anymore as it used to or ought to), despite reading quickly, I like to feel like the writing takes its time. Reading is a conversation, and I like to have my conversations run on at length. It’s something I know annoys more than a few people, though, so, as I note, it may well just be me. But it remains ever so slightly vexatious…