A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 171: Mad Ship, Chapter 33

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

A content warning regarding sexual assault is in order.


A chapter titled “Proofs” follows and opens with Etta entering Kennit’s cabin. The pirate reflects on recent events and his work drafting a plan for Divvytown, thinking back to his childhood; amid his reverie, the charm at Kennit’s writs upbraids him for his desire for control over others, and he retires. When Etta joins him in bed, Kennit chides her; she reports that Wintrow had taken more injury ashore than had been thought, and that she had tended to him while asking him about her continued readings. She professes her faithfulness to Kennit, which takes him aback and prompts him to urge her toward him; she notes that Wintrow professes a belief that he is divinely ordained to follow Kennit, and the pirate exults in the revelation. He purposes to take Wintrow to Others Island for soothsaying before engaging Etta intimately.

I can see this going badly, yeah.
Source in image, used for commentary.

Aboard the Paragon, Althea sees to the completion of a task–finding and treating a soiled cask of salt pork–she had assigned to crewmen Lop and Artu. When she rebukes them for lazing about rather than doing their work, Artu attempts to rape her, and a melee ensues. Althea prevails, if narrowly, and drags Artu above deck, where Brashen is incredulous and Lavoy almost smug as Althea reports. Lop emerges from below decks with the rotten meat and begins to put it overboard when a serpent attacks. Defying Brashen’s orders and Althea’s urgings, Haff rushes forward to fight the creature and is badly injured. A more general melee breaks out against the serpent, and it is driven off injured, although several of the crew are also harmed; the Paragon exults in memories suddenly returning.

Back at the Vestrit estate, Ronica ponders over changes as she prepares herself and her family for flight. Their return to the estate after the attack is glossed, and Malta’s note that the attackers had sought Cosgo and the Companions recalled. Reyn arrives, and Ronica realizes that he has been involved in the ongoing upset; she bids him leave, but he instead makes to abduct Malta. Ronica relents and sends Keffria, Malta, and Selden with Reyn, who says he can get them to the Rain Wilds and safety. Ronica remains behind with Rache as the rest of them depart.

Later, aboard the Paragon, Brashen summons Althea from her cabin. As she makes to report, she considers events since the attack, and when she reports, she is taken aback at the injuries Brashen has sustained. As she eases herself, he briefs her on crew and ship status, including injuries to Haff and reassignment of Artu–who has pled for it in abject fear of her. Brashen makes to examine her injuries and kisses her, which gesture she returns before leaving his cabin to a wry comment from Clef, who has been peeping in on them.

If the previous chapter was the narrative climax, this chapter is decidedly part of the falling action. Matters move forward from the climactic encounter, certainly, and in response to the changes occasioned by that encounter–although the effects of it have yet to be felt aboard either the Vivacia or the Paragon. That the liveships are not concerned with that climax (yet, perhaps) might be taken to indicate that the narrative threads centering on them are not the main ones, as such–although such a reading necessarily assumes a hierarchical relationship among the narratives in play and thus among the characters upon which they center. How accurate that assumption is is subject to question, however, certainly now if not necessarily at the time and in the circumstances of the novel’s composition and initial publication. But that is one of the things about good writing that marks it as good: it sustains multiple readings, multiple interpretations that can and do change over time.

Even the North Star moves, in time.

Assistance is still appreciated.

4 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 171: Mad Ship, Chapter 33

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