A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 153: Mad Ship, Chapter 15

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

The chapter that follows, “Tidings,” begins with the Vestrit women at work in the household. Althea excuses herself to go into town; Malta asks if she is going to see Amber, which Althea notes she is, and the issue of them being lovers is brought up. Althea denies it vehemently and storms off; Malta delights in having occasioned the reaction, while Ronica stalks off in disgust. With them gone, Malta mulls over her situation and purposes to be in control and command of herself before considering a meeting with another potential suitor.

The carver at work.
Image from noodlerface’s tumblr, used for commentary.

Elsewhere, Althea confers with Grag Tenira about Malta. He reports progress on the matter of the tariffs, as well as on the Ophelia; the latter goes well, with Amber being remarkably flexible and proficient in the work of repairing and restoring the figurehead. He also notes there’s been no word of the Vivacia, though he continues to ask. Local politics also get some attention in their conversation, and Althea finds herself thinking of Brashen Trell.

Brashen, dressed well and clean, reports to the Vestrit home. Malta greets him, sneeringly, and a tense exchange ensues before he recognizes her and notes that he has news to deliver. As she stalks off to get a runner to her mother and grandmother, Brashen mulls over the changes he sees and considers Althea’s likely disposition.

Following her conversation with Grag, Althea calls on Amber. The two confer, and Amber repeats back to Althea some of her own words from the conversation with Grag. The two confer about Althea’s desires, and Amber notes the gender dynamics that inhibit Althea’s achieving them. Sexual ethics also receive some comment.

Malta returns to Brashen, treating him with better manners, and Brashen begins to feel uncomfortable with her as they discuss his siblings. His addiction to cindin tells upon him; he is distracted, and not only by Malta’s coquettishness. When he tries to excuse himself, realizing somewhat belatedly what she is doing, he almost runs into Ronica and Keffria, who have returned. He reports to them the capture of the Vivacia by Kennit, offering what information he has available. It does not do the Vestrit women any good, nor yet does Althea’s brash entrance with Malta rebuked for eavesdropping. A fracas ensues, although it is soon quelled, and the family confers as to how to proceed.

The chapter is an excellent one for the feminist critique that pervades the Liveship Traders novels; the discussion between Althea and Amber is a frank and largely open treatment of one of the major concerns of such discourse. It also works as a striking counterpoint to the issue of the previous chapter; Althea is not nearly so constrained in her choices as Serilla is, and without the overt threats that the latter faces, but she is still very much confined by prevailing gender dynamics. One message to take away is that even the more genteel restrictions are just that; they force people to be other than they are, diminishing them all–and all of us.

I’d still love your help!


3 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 153: Mad Ship, Chapter 15

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