A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 140: Mad Ship, Chapter 2

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


The next chapter, “The Pirate’s Leg,” begins with Wintrow conversing with the Vivacia about the need to amputate Kennit’s leg again, as well as his apprehensions about the same. Their discussion is uneasy; Wintrow knows he faces the possibility of his death and his father’s, and the ship faces uncertainty in the lack of her blood kin.

A Civil War Surgeon's Tools | National Archives
These are likely nicer than what Wintrow discusses.
Image taken from the US National Archives, here, and used for commentary

Wintrow muses on his situation further. The tumult that the ship still feels hinders his ability to center himself. The micro-political tensions between Kennit and his crew and Sa’Adar and the freed slaves grates upon him. The deaths of the Vivacia‘s former crew weigh upon him. The burden of caring for his father tells upon him. Thinking through it leads him to places that are strange to him.

The Vivacia herself considers her situation, as well. Owing to her nature, she is preternatually aware of the goings-on aboard her. She makes contact with Kennit’s wizardwood charm, the experience confusing and frightening her.

Kennit struggles to consciousness through fever and sends Etta to fetch Wintrow. In her absence, the charm torments him; it leaves off when she returns with Wintrow. Nervously, the would-be priest examines Kennit’s leg, searching out how much more of the limb will have to be removed to save the rest of the pirate’s body. Wintrow arrives, with some trepidation, at a plan of treatment, to which Kennit agrees.

The chapter serves largely as exposition, laying out current states of affairs and reminding readers who might be new to the series with the present novel or who might have been away from the reading for a while of how things stand aboard the Vivacia. It also appears to foreshadow conflict between Sa’Adar and Kennit, setting up a confrontation to follow the promised amputation.

About that: Hobb is on record as favoring verisimilitude in her writing, remarking that “I think the best way to convince a reader that I know what I’m talking about when I recount the habits of dragons is to know what I’m talking about when I recount the details of raising chickens or putting a roof on a house.” As such, the eliding of many details about the surgery comes off as a way to cover gaps in her knowledge–gaps which are not themselves problematic, of course, as someone not a physician need not be expected to know how to take a leg off with some measure of safety. And it is handled well, covered by Kennit’s musings; I know that I have wandered into my own thoughts even at times when vitally important information is being relayed, so I can easily imagine characters who have already been humanized and shown to be flawed doing so, as well.

It’s almost Halloween; help me treat my daughter?

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