A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 142: Mad Ship, Chapter 4

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

The chapter that follows, “Bonds,” opens with Wintrow approaching Kennit’s chosen commander of the Vivacia, one Brig. Wintrow asks Brig for information and assistance; it is forthcoming until the Vivacia comes under pursuit from Chalcedean mercenaries in the Satrap’s employ. The liveship and the Marietta, following, evade pursuit, after which Kennit summons Wintrow to his cabin. The pirate captain is in poor shape, wracked by pain. Wintrow tries to calm him, and Kennit demands that the amputation be performed post-haste. Wintrow agrees, and Etta offers her assistance.

Galley of the largest size, with five men on each oar, early 17th century
This seems an odd thing to show in an Age of Sail, but still…
Image taken from
Britannica.com, used for commentary.

Elsewhere, Brashen confers with his own captain, Finney, as the two share drinks and cindin. Finney speaks of clandestine deals, which Brashen takes to mean piracy until Finney purposes to use Brashen as a contact in Bingtown, thereby to get more money for them. Brashen tables the idea, citing his bad relations with family in the town, but he does not refuse it.

Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow prepares to perform the amputation. Supplies are lacking, but Wintrow draws strength from the ship and takes stock of the situation as Sa’Adar looks on. Etta persuades the priest to summon the medical supplies, and they are forthcoming, although her methods breed enmity with the priest. When Wintrow is able to proceed, communion with the ship and with the pirate almost overwhelm him, but with the help of the ship, he is able to complete the procedure.

After, when Kennit has been returned to his cabin, he returns to the figurehead to confer with the Vivacia. The ship remarks that the nearby serpent that has eaten the amputated flesh feels somehow like family. She also notes that Kennit and she are forming a bond, through which the pirate is able to sense Wintrow’s doubt, to their peril. Wintrow tries to redirect his thoughts, but Kennit stops breathing, even so.

I confess to being uncertain why the interlude with Brashen appears where it does. I know that, in one sense, the placement is meant to convey the idea of contemporaneity; it is happening at the same time that Wintrow is preparing to amputate more of Kennit’s leg. But it need not be, and the brief passage intruding seems to me to disrupt the flow of the narrative at that point. Nor is it strictly necessary to present it there to cover “idle” time while Wintrow fares poorly at finding materials; there are other breaks in the chapter, sub-sections denoted by an extra space and more capitalization. (Paratext has meaning, too, as I told students repeatedly when I had them.) The information in the passage–Finney is a cheat, Brashen would like to be able to have some standards still–is useful for the plot, yes, but the placement and the pacing…I am not certain. But that’s just me, and it’s not like it puts me off the novel…

Trick or treat?


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