At the Workplace

The broncos held next door
Tended by unexpected physicians
Whose hands are stained
Roar as they are goaded
Thundering not with their hooves but
With the exhalations of what they drink
And we who listen as those who seek us
Wrestle with those spirits by which they are haunted
And defilement of the temples given into their care
Must hear instead the burgeoning stampedes
Rather than the songs they seek to sing
Whose voices have often been drowned out
Choked off for smoke and stranger dusts
Or sleeps enforced upon them

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

Your support is kindly appreciated.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 182: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 3

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

A chapter titled “Wintrow” comes next, and it opens with the Vivacia considering the departure from Others’ Island and calling for a healer for Wintrow. Kennit does what he can to allay the liveship’s fears for the Vestrit youth, but it is not much; the ship speaks to an absence of Wintrow’s psychic presence within her, one that gives her cause to fear. Kennit attempts to insinuate himself further with the ship, but the Vivacia rebuffs him, if gently. He withdraws, and as he does, the charm on his wrist mocks him, and he ponders matters as he makes for Wintrow’s cabin.

Photo by M.Y. Kemiktv Youtube on

Within, Etta tends to the unconscious, injured Wintrow, detailing the harm done him and girding herself against the feared pain of his death. And not only for herself; she muses on what Wintrow’s death would do to Kennit. She voices her concerns to the unconscious boy and is startled by Kennit’s entry. After a brief discussion, he orders that Wintrow be taken to the foredeck.

Within himself, Wintrow finds himself conferring with the psychic echoes of the dragon that the Vivacia should have been. It is beginning to reassert itself through the layers of the persona that have been forced upon it, unknowingly, by the Vestrits. He is jolted by being moved, and the underlying dragon begins to force him back to health and wakefulness.

Kennit watches as Wintrow is brought on deck, and he assesses the youth’s condition; he looks like to die. He calls to the youth and bids Etta begin to tend him again. Within himself, Wintrow begins to act to repair his body and speed it along. He returns to consciousness, and Kennit takes the credit for redeeming him from death.

Following the Vivacia, She Who Remembers reaches out to the ship, hoping for a response. She receives none, though she is sure she is heard.

In the second section of the chapter, Etta, musing on Kennit’s exaltation and success in forging a cohesive polity in the Pirate Isles, wonders “What kind of a man harbored such dreams, let alone brought them to fruit?” As I read the novel again–and, truly, it has been a while since I last cracked it open; I think it was in advance of a paper I wrote for Kalamazoo some years back–it occurs to me that depictions of Kennit do work as an answer to that question. What kind of person dreams of building a kingdom for themself and actually goes about doing it? Not a good one, seems to be the answer, despite the legends that creep up and stories that are told in later years. What readings I have done about real-life foundational figures suggest that so much is true, at least, and even in myth and legend, Utopian founders are hardly saints; Malory’s Arthur, for example, mimics the Scriptural Herod in ordering the deaths of babies–and, more, to kill his own (incest-born) child. So much for the Once and Future King–and so much for the Pirate King.

There are, of course, other readings to perform. I know it well; I’ve done a few of them, after all. It would be easy, particularly given the discourse in the present chapter, to read the Liveship Traders novels as commentary on the legacies of (colonialist) oppression, how even those ignorant of historical wrongs benefit from their perpetration. Wintrow, after all, had not known how the liveships came to be, although his family fortune and (admittedly formerly) privileged position are entangled in such a ship; he benefits from the fruits of trees fertilized by shitty deeds and worse. And the parallels to the readers’ world invite consideration that more would benefit from conducting.

Care to send a bit of help my way?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 181: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 2

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

The next chapter, “Traders and Traitors,” begins with Ronica hiding and observing a hooded figure approach her door, her home having been ransacked by Chalcedeans and Bingtowners alike. She rehearses the events leading up to her present from her last appearance: the upset after the Summer Ball, her flight, fighting in the town and in the harbor. Following the fracas, in the brief interval in which Bingtown was free, she had made to flee with Rache for her old family farm, pausing only briefly to pay feeble respects to the slain Restart. Meanwhile, civil unrest had broken out, and neighbors had turned on one another in short order, even harassing Ronica and Rache as they fled. The depredations she saw along the way persuaded Ronica to return to her home, Rache accompanying her, and the two had settled in and hunkered down in an outbuilding, holding up as best they could.

Doja Cat - Boss B*tch (from Birds of Prey: The Album) [Official Music Video]
Image from Atlantic Records, here, used for commentary.

The hooded figure is revealed to be Cerwin Trell when Ronica confronts him. He reports on public perception of the Vestrits, that they had turned traitors to Bingtown along with Restart, and he notes his own father’s increasing anger at the Vestrit family. Ronica notes that Malta had escaped Bingtown, and Cerwin reports on the current state of the city. It is still free, although supplies are running low, and there is still violence in the streets at night. Old and New Traders are at odds, with others caught between them, and no negotiations are ongoing. Ronica reassures him that his work to remain outside the fray is wise, and she asks if she would be well served to meet with Serilla, who is still working as the Satrap’s representative; Cerwin has no good answer. As he leaves, Ronica takes stock of her ruined home and moves forward.

In Restart’s home, Serilla is disturbed in her ruminations by Ronica’s arrival; she tries to put the older woman off as she rehearses her own tenuous situation, but can only delay for a short time. She realizes that a conspiracy against the Satrap had long been in place and that the rash actions of Bingtown Traders had hindered but not completely overturned it, but she is not ready for Ronica to confront her with her demands for adherence to local statute and protocol. When she calls for aid from other Traders, she finds them stymied in large part by the force of Ronica’s personality; she rebukes one of the Traders for Davad’s death, which he does not deny. Nor yet are her accusations regarding the injuries to her family denied, even as she argues against Serilla’s authority. At length, she makes her exit, and the other Traders take council from Serilla regarding how they will proceed. One of them, Roed Caern, is asked to return later; Serilla will send him after the Vestrits.

The present chapter includes quite a bit of explication, which makes sense for the early part of a novel–and more so given the relative gap in time between the presented characters’ previous appearances and the present ones. Put simply, there is a lot of catching up to do, as would be the case were the characters people being encountered again after several busy weeks away. (One of the few advantages of spreading a re-reading out as I am doing with this one is that it affords time between entries; reading serially is a different experience than reading in single sittings, as I well know and as I expect many of my readers–if you are many, as I hope you are–also know. The time offers greater similarity between the readers’ experience and the characters’, which, even if it is part of an affective reading, does help with immersion and verisimilitude. So there’s that.)

I am again put in mind of various independence movements in North America (the continent for reasons), where colonies rebel against colonial powers at some cost to themselves–and with no small amount of fractiousness within themselves, as well. Bingtown had not been a unified community leading up to the tumult at the Summer Ball, and the tension within it was bound to increase with the events of that evening–not only because it makes narrative sense that they do so, but also because people tend to exploit outside stresses to act in their own interests. Prevailing upset allows opportunity for realignment, after all, and why wouldn’t someone–especially someone heavily invested in a mercantile, transactional socioeconomic situation–take the chance to avail themselves of it?

If you like what I’m doing, can you spare a bit to help me keep doing it?

A Rumination on Some Exercises

It is not exactly a secret that I spent more than a decade teaching, that I thought for many years that I would make a career of being at the front of a classroom, helping students at one level or another learn how to do things that they might not enjoy quite at the moment, but that would help them later on–and that they might well come to enjoy, even if they did not do so in the moment. I spent a lot of time learning how to do that very thing (although not enough, clearly, else I’d be doing it now instead of working the job I have–but that’s probably for the better), and, as part of that learning, I got to do a number of the exercises I would later ask my students to do. It’s a good thing, truly; it’s hard for a person to guide someone else through something they’ve not yet done, after all, and I did try to make a practice in my teaching years of doing the assignments I asked my students to do–or something very much like them (adjusting, of course, so that they would not have the work done for them; they’d not learn anything if it were simply handed to them). I may have gotten a lot of things wrong in the classroom–I know I did–but I got that done right, at least.

Photo by Pixabay on

That said, I did not always find the assignments congenial–and, often enough, I was not in a position to simply select other exercises, being bound by my always-contingent positions to adhere to prescribed sequences of assignments. Since I still write, sometimes even for money, I still run into exercises that are not necessarily to my taste or liking; I still have to do writing that I find difficult, whether because I am not in a good headspace to do that work at that time, or because the work, however remunerative, is somehow otherwise objectionable to me. And sometimes, I have had exercises that I thought were good ones that ended up being…otherwise. The last, I try not to discuss more than to note that they have happened; it does me no good to dwell on the details more than I already have, and I can assure those readers who grace me with their eyes that I have rebuked myself thoroughly, at length, and in detail about my many failures. The first, I can address with another cup or pot of coffee and a shift in music, or else a lapse of a day–though that day all too often stretches out further than I ever ought to let it do.

The “otherwise objectionable,” though, is thornier. I have refused jobs that were outright racist or sexist to my first reading. (Yes, there have been some execrable fucks who’ve tried to get me to write for them.) More often, though, I’ve had issues of being asked to do writing that is innocuous enough on its surface but that is profoundly uncomfortable for me. The objection is not to the scope of the work, but to my having to do it; there are things which I do not do well because I know I should not be doing them. I try to be aware of my limitations, as those who have read my Hobb Reread entries will note; I often remark that I am not adept in a particular area, despite knowing enough to note that the area is applicable. Sometimes, I am aware of the mismatch before I get started, and I can turn away before going thence; too often, I do not realize it until I am in the midst of it, and all that remains is to plow ahead as best I can and keep it in mind for the future. And maybe I can work to be more comfortable talking about some other things than I already am, too.

That might actually be nice.

I can always use more help, and I always appreciate what I receive.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 180: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 1

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

The first chapter of the novel, “The Rain Wilds,” opens with Malta rehearsing recent events as she paddles herself, the Satrap, and Kekki down the Rain Wild River. Her passengers complain as she works, and her regard for them sours further than it already had. Their ineptitude hampers her efforts, and the three are swept past Trehaug and on down the Rain Wild River; Malta begins to despair of their situation.

Not an ideal situation, no.
Image by Katrin Sapranova on Tumblr, used for commentary.

Keffria frets about her younger children as she continues to assist as she can with rescue and recovery efforts in Trehaug. Jani Khuprus joins her in concern for the younger children, noting that the situation below ground is untenable and that crews have been redirected following a mandated rest. Some rescues have been effected, and help is on the way. Too, Jani notes her slim hopes that Reyn has found the Vestrit children and is guiding them out by another way. Later, as the rest proceeds, Keffria’s injuries are tended to and Jani notes commonplaces for quakes in the area. Keffria considers who she is against the possibility that her husband and children are all gone or dead, and her conversation on that point with Jani is interrupted by reports of a dragon having been sighted. The two proceed to where they hope to find Reyn and Malta.

Reyn and Selden take stock of themselves and the changed situation in the wake of the dragon’s departure. Having witnessed the emergence of the dragon, they find their perspectives on the world altered. Their situation remains dangerous, however; the chamber in which they yet remain is filling with mud, but Reyn begins to enact a plan of escape. But the instability of the chamber tells upon their efforts, even so.

The first section is what strike me most as I read the chapter again. Malta’s mental commentary about the Satrap and Kekki rings true for me; I have often thought that those ostensibly in power are more venial and less effective than might be hoped. I am also certain that similar thoughts are and have been held about me, seldom as I might be in others’ thoughts. Certainly, the Satrap’s obloquy sounds authentic, particularly in the wake of continuing violence against women and BIPOC. (Yes, I know I should read with more of an eye towards the novel’s contexts of composition and publication, but I inhabit my own context, and it’s not a happy one for a great many people who act as entitled as the Satrap, and with much less cause for it. Not that he really has much cause.) And it does seem to reinforce a character trope of which Hobb seems to be fond; I note the parallels between Cosgo and Regal, as I think all must who read both Farseer and Liveship Trader works…

Now that spring has sprung, can you lend a hand?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 179: Ship of Destiny, Prologue

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

The prologue, “She Who Remembers,” begins with the titular serpent rehearsing her history to herself after being freed by Wintrow Vestrit. She muses on Wintrow’s efforts and her own efforts on his behalf, as well, as she considers the mystery of the liveship she follows and calls out to others of her kind, to no avail. When she does encounter another serpent that responds to her, she is shocked by the bestiality of those responses, and she forcibly awakens the memories dormant within him. The gesture is not appreciated, and the awakened serpent bemoans consciousness before swimming off to die. In her despair, she casts about, catching the echo of a call and responding, but finding none who could have uttered it.

Ship of Destiny (Liveship Traders, #3) by Robin Hobb
The cover of the version from which I work…
Image taken from Goodreads, used for commentary

As might have been expected, the current chapter flows smoothly from the end of the previous novel, functioning more as a continuation of a single book than as the beginning of another. And it does an admirable job reminding readers of–or introducing readers new to the series to; I’ve been known to suggest students start reading series with their ends, and I’ve been dropped into a given series midst any number of times by my freelance writing–the stakes involved in the milieu of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings novels. Extinction of a sentient species is not something to take lightly, nor yet are the implications, as Hobb’s later work reminds, of another sentience being present and active in the world. (Another take on such comes to mind.) Being reminded of it–along with the gloss of recent events that has typified serial publication throughout its modern history–brings readers swiftly (back) into the narrative world, the issue made immediate through the sudden immersion in its importance even as an Otherness that rings of but does not quite coincide with the post/colonial is emphasized by the nonhuman intelligences on display as at work in the world.

So, yeah, no big stakes or anything. Just another good read getting underway.

New book, new request for support…

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 178: Mad Ship, Chapter 40

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

As an epilogue, “The Memory of Wings” begins with the serpents that follow Maulkin conferring about their urgent haste. They are weary with the speed Maulkin urges from them. Maulkin bids them rest, and they reflect on what they have learned. It reminds them that matters have changed substantially, and they puzzle out that an environmental cataclysm has confused them–and the depredations of the liveship builders have robbed them of guides who should have awaited them. The serpent Tellur proposes hunting liveships; Mauklin restrains him and offers to take such liveships as they find but notes that hunting them is not ideal. They have to migrate or die.

She Who Remembers
A rewarded effort?
She Who Remembers by Crooty on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

The serpent Wintrow freed from Others Island rehearses circumstances as she moves to follow the Vivacia towards the mainland and her intended purpose. She Who Remembers must return her memories to her kin, sharing what she knows with them.

The epilogue makes a neat bookend with the prologue, the titles of the two selections mirroring one another no less than the brevity and non-human focus of the materials. Once again, the novel is re-grounded in the narrative milieu, the chapter serving as a reminder that there is a non-human intelligence very much at work in the story and reminding readers that that intelligence is increasingly concerned with the tiny hairless things that cluster about the cast-off casings of its dead.

Whether the opening of the next book in the series offers as smooth a transition as the prologue of the present novel does, I do not recall at present. Fortunately, I will have opportunity to remind myself as the rereading series continues; thank you for following along with me!

I could sure use some more support.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 177: Mad Ship, Chapter 39

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

The following chapter, “Dragon Rising,” opens with Reyn considering the sunrise from his imprisonment in the collapsed Crowned Rooster chamber, where Selden sleeps. When the boy wakes, Reyn suggests a plan for getting out of the chamber, digging out the one place where the sunlight makes its way in and hope of egress shines down; Selden notes the plan will not work, as the wizardwood upon which they would have to stand is “melting.” Reyn puzzles at the phenomenon, noting that liveships do not fare thus; Tintaglia enters his mind to announce herself as she emerges from her cocoon.

Tintaglia hatches
Yeah, this.
TigRaido’s Tintaglia hatches on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Tintaglia’s efforts to free herself imperil Reyn, who is torn between fascination at her beauty and self-preservation, and Selden as they enact their own escape. Reyn’s thoughts turn with hope to Malta as he and Selden do more to effect their return to the surface. Tintaglia, meanwhile, exults in her freedom and thinks to fly off–but she is dissuaded by some stray thought and makes to redeem both Reyn and Malta, who have aided her.

It is a brief chapter, another bit of denouement for the present novel and setup for the next. The separation from the preceding chapter does serve 1) to help keep the narrative threads separated and 2) allows for spacing between chapters in the narrative sequence that promotes suspense; the previous entry in Reyn’s story does appear to leave him as if for dead. So there are reasons to have the chapter broken out, although I do not know that they make the chapter more effective than consolidation of the various stories would have done. Still, as a brief, penultimate section of the novel, it does well–and I do look forward to getting into the next one soon!

Your kind contribution remains appreciated.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 176: Mad Ship, Chapter 38

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

The following chapter, “Paragon‘s Captain,” begins with matters returning to normal aboard the Paragon in the wake of the encounter with the serpent. With some caveats: Brashen calls for combat training to begin among the crew, and the ship is strangely pensive–almost mourning–following the encounter. After some tense discussion, in which Lavoy is embarrassed, Brashen’s status as captain is absolutely affirmed, and he puts Lavoy, Althea, and Amber to tasks to assist in the search for the Vivacia. Amber also discusses her work on the figurehead, repairing the scar that mars the figure’s chest; Brashen is a bit put off by it but bids the work continue–carefully. After dismissing Amber, Brashen has a few words for Althea, as well, before she is dismissed, in turn, and Brashen wonders if things will ease.

Paragon and Amber
One of many such images–there has to be a reason–is MargoAquato’s Paragon and Amber on DeviantArt, used here for commentary

Amber continues her work with the Paragon, the figurehead noting to her its dual nature. They discuss questions of identity as the ship muses on her fragility, and Amber remarks upon self-determination. The ship frightens Amber and Althea, who keeps watch, for a moment, but Amber asserts that things are well with the Paragon and with her.

The chapter serves, appropriately enough, as something of a denouement, following after the falling action of the Paragon storyline in the present novel. And it does serve to help set up the next volume in the series–fittingly enough, since but one chapter and a numbered epilogue remain in the present one. It also presents an interesting irony, one that becomes clearer in a rereading and that requires knowledge confirmed in other places to make sense; as such, I’ll not detail it, only to point out that it is present. In truth, as I reread the chapter this time, I have to wonder if ideas about Amber’s origin and the friend she reports having and conversing with in absentia were forming as Hobb wrote it, if they had not been before–or if, perhaps, they had been, and she realized more needed to be done to bring out such a connection.

Such considerations do range outside what can be ascertained, of course; at best, reports of process would be available, and there are always issues with reports. Even those filled out with an intention of honest transparency will necessarily omit details, recollection being imperfect and mediation always bringing about changes. But it is an interesting thing to think on, at least for a little while.

Can you help me keep this going? Will you?

Crowning Achievement

Doffing a mask to don a crown
That soon may roll upon the ground
As who sit in power bow them down
To others who, of less renown,
Stand in city and in town,
Heeding not who wear the gown
But bid their pockets lined.

Photo by Anna Shvets on

Sure, the sight will catch the breath
Of many, and another Seth
Will rise as a new Abel’s death
Will make Cain’s sin a shibboleth,
And we are all akin.

Care to lend a hand with what’s about to happen?