A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 159: Mad Ship, Chapter 21

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


A chapter titled “Salvage” follows, beginning with work to refit the Paragon ongoing under Brashen’s watch and with his help. Progress is noted, as is the difficulty the work faces of returning the long-beached ship to the sea. So is his continued difficulty addressing his addiction to cindin. And trouble emerges as the ship lashes out, frightening the work crews such that Brashen has to resort to threats to get work to continue. They extend to the ship, itself, despite the disapproval of both Amber and Althea, who look on. The three return to work, Clef joining them, and the sullen work crew resumes its own efforts.

image
We’re a ways past this…
Image from electropeach’s Tumblr, here, and used for commentary.

At the Vestrit home, Malta entertains her friend, Delo Trell. The latter passes along a missive from her brother, Cerwin, and Malta muses ruefully on her current situation. The contents of Cerwin’s missive are paltry, Malta contrasting them with what she has had to learn about the family finances. She asks about how the Trells stand and gets little useful information from it; Delo reports the argument between her father and Cerwin had echoed that between him and Brashen, frightening her. Malta mulls over what her friend says, recalling more of the events of intervening days and the sacrifices the Vestrits have been making, thinking on the increasing separation between herself and her peers. Malta retires to her chamber and considers her situation further. The room grows oppressive, and she finds herself ensnared in a dream. During it, the dragon speaks to her, demanding she help persuade Reyn to help her.

As night begins to fall, Brashen calls a halt to work on the Paragon as he wrestles with his longing for Althea, considering their strained relationship. As the work crews filter away, he pores over ledgers, tallying costs ruefully. He approaches her where she confers with Amber at the aft of the ship, and the three discuss the next day’s prospects. Althea notes updates from Grag; the Teniras’ situation is not improving. Brashen’s temper gets the better of him for a bit, and he is rebuked for it. He continues, confronting Althea with what he has intuited about her truth; Althea makes a perfunctory denial, and Brashen stalks off to where Clef has a cook fire going. He and the boy speak briefly about luck.

After Brashen leaves, Althea makes to depart. She rails against Brashen to Amber, who defends the man to her, in turn. Althea admits to the woodcarver that she would like more of a relationship with Brashen, and Amber encourages her in that desire.

Brashen’s addiction to cindin has been noted at several earlier points in the Liveship Traders books, and it joins with the problems identified in carris seed and elfbark in the Farseer novels to suggest a theme in Hobb’s novels addressing the perils of substance use. (From the vantage of a rereading, I can also note that others of the Elderlings novels speak to the issue, as well.) My own perspective, coming from administering a substance abuse treatment facility, predisposes me to look for such things, as might be expected, but even without that admitted bias, the inclusion of such things–not only the drugs and their intoxicating effects, but also their sometimes lingering aftereffects –does a fair bit to reinforce the verisimilitude of Hobb’s milieu. The drugs with mystical properties have all too mundane ones, as well, or else the mystical is only an extension of the mundane; they have the same narrative effect, really.

I shall appreciate your continued support.

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