A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 175: Mad Ship, Chapter 37

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

The succeeding chapter, “Death of the City,” opens with Keffria awake in the night already when an earthquake convulses under Trehaug. She makes to check on Malta and tell her of her imminent departure for Bingtown, rehearsing her nervousness about Trehaug, only to find Malta is not in her chambers. She casts about for her daughter, and is taken to the Khuprus home. Jani demonstrates that Malta is not with Reyn, and their following conversation is interrupted by the brazen bell of a collapse alarm. Jani answers the summons it conveys, leaving Keffria alone to find her children.

San Francisco City Hall after the 1906 Earthquake.
This, but underground and in a caustic swamp.
Image taken from the US Geological Survey, here, used for commentary.

Malta, still somewhat addled by her experience sharing memories with Tintaglia, strives to find an exit from the collapsed city,the Satrap and his Companion in tow. They do not recognize her from Bingtown, and she struggles to retain her sense of self as she deploys the memories she has shared to try to find egress. With some struggle, and no few complaints from her followers, she succeeds, although the effort leaves them lost in a swamp. Malta declares herself to the Satrap and Companion as they continue to upbraid her, and she stalks off to see if a usable boat is available. She does get one free with minimal assistance, and when the Satrap attempts to command her, she rebukes him, arriving at a better understanding of her grandmother as she drifts off to sleep. She wakes to the Satrap ordering her again. She swiftly wearies of him and moves away, finding a makeshift paddle. Slowly, they head off.

In Trehaug, Jani and Bendir roust Reyn from his drunken slumber against the collapse alarm, citing a need for his knowledge of the city as the work to secure it goes on. Reyn frets about Malta, and Bendir reminds him that the Satrap is imperiled–and his loss would be disastrous for the Traders. Jani realizes that Reyn’s earlier rantings about Malta going into the city are true, and it is in a tumult that the Khupruses proceed to the rescue efforts already underway. Reyn contributes as he muses on circumstances and upon the now-escaped Satrap and his inadequacies, and he comes across the frightened Selden. Asking the boy about his sister, he takes him along as he continues into the city, recognizing the catastrophic extent of the damage caused by the earthquake and soon despairing of Malta’s life. Tintaglia taunts him as he approaches her, and Reyn, realizing that the city is doomed, enlists Selden to help him make an attempt to free the dragon at last. The chamber begins to collapse around them.

The bit about Malta understanding Ronica better stands out in my mind from this reading. I’ve often seen it noted that one of the marks of growing up is better understanding parental figures, and I’ve noticed in myself a tendency to apprehend my parents’ actions better and better as I get older and am a parent longer. It’s another bit of affective reading, to be sure, but I do think that more readers read with affect than avoid it or seek to do so, and it’s certainly the case that I switched to literary study out of love for it (although I switched out of another field for different reasons). It’s also something I notice as I reread that I seem to be affected by different things than I recall. Admittedly, I did not take great notes on earlier readings, certainly not so good a set of them as Luke Shelton has, and I am finding that my memory is not as good as it used to be (although it still rebukes me for mistakes made long ago…), but it feels different this time. Whether that is a good thing or not, I am not sure.

I suppose I should keep reading and find out.

Spring Break is coming; help me give my daughter a better experience with it?

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