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?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 174: Mad Ship, Chapter 36

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


The next chapter, “Dragon and Satrap,” begins with Malta languishing in the damp underground cold. She calms herself, pressing onward to follow a sound she is uncertain she hears and a light she is uncertain she sees, soon coming past the cave-in that had trapped her and igniting magic lights that show her the fallen glory from which the Rain Wilds derive their wealth. The setting is familiar to her from dreams with Reyn (here, here, and elsewhere), and she finds herself confused by both the motion of the ground and the fleeting visions of others she sees around her. Pressing on, Malta comes to a chamber carrying the crowned rooster of the Khuprus family; sounds of merriment reach her from behind it. The sounds are illusory, though, as Malta finds when she breaches the chamber, accidentally lays her hands on wizardwood, and hears the voice of the dragon in her mind again.

I’ve been waiting to use this.
Image is from Katrin Sapranova, here, used for commentary.

Elsewhere in Trehaug, Jani and Bendir Khuprus confer about Reyn and the wizardwood log they do not realize Malta has found. His status and scandal are remarked upon, and Bendir offers to send him back to work in the city; Jani refuses, and the two head to Reyn’s chambers. They find him frantic and restrain him as he raves that the dragon has Malta and has abandoned him. Jani manages to calm him, along with the effects of sleeplessness and drink, and she and Bendir steal out of his chamber.

Meanwhile, Malta has been dickering with the dragon for noninterference after retrieving her father. She manages to wrangle the dragon’s name, Tintaglia, and a solemn promise to do the things named. Tintaglia communicates the need for her release and conveys a method for effecting it, sharing memories with Malta and guiding her to yet others. The input overwhelms her until the dragon drags her back into herself, and Malta attempts to open the chamber to the outside world. The initial effort is unsuccessful, and Tintaglia dispatches Malta to retrieve Selden to assist; as Malta makes to obey, she encounters the Satrap and his Companion, Kekki. In disdain, they move off; Malta corrects their course, bringing them with her as she begins to effect her own escape from the unstable city.

Among the other things going on in the present chapter is reference to the Farseer books, namely the stone garden where Verity carves his dragon (here and following). In earlier readings, I had seen the matter as something of a retcon, evidently having glossed over the present chapter in memory when I did the earlier reading; the present chapter bids me reconsider that somewhat. If nothing else, Hobb noted the divergent dragons earlier than I had remembered, which is my problem and not the author’s. I am not pleased to have been wrong, as such, although I do appreciate the opportunities afforded by rereading; getting more things right is always a pleasure.

The comments from Tintaglia about the inadequacies of males of her species and Malta’s are of interest, especially against the ongoing feminist critique the Liveship Traders novels offer. The assertion that “Males are timorous creatures at best. They think only to feed and breed….Males will quiver in the shadows, fearing their own deaths. [Females] know that the only thing to be feared is the end of the race” presents an entertainingly divergent perspective that puts me in mind of LeGuin’s later Earthsea materials–although I do not recall them well enough to be able to speak to more direct connections than my having read both. Others who know more would doubtlessly have somewhat to say about it, and I would happily listen.

Care to send some help my way?

Further Rumination on an Exercise Class

A while back, I opined on starting up in an exercise class. I’ve continued with it in the time since writing that earlier piece, and I’ve added to my weekly attendance (for the most part; there are always sick-days and other obligatory absences to address). The dance classes themselves continue, and the instructor’s been offering Tabata classes on Mondays and Wednesdays that I’ve attended. Too, the classes have relocated to a local gym, of which I am a member, now, and if I’ve not popped in other than for classes, I have put in some time before class once or twice–and might again.

Yeah, I still don’t make it look this good.
Photo by Li Sun on Pexels.com

I am pleased to report that the classes are getting easier to do. I’m more familiar with the movements the dance class requires, muscle memory developing such that I can let myself go more in the class and spend less time being frustrated at myself for missed steps and the like. (They still happen, and I still hate it, but it’s better than it was, by far.) Too, the Tabata classes push me in ways that make sense to me, and I am able to push myself in them more and more with most classes. (Yes, there are some backslide days, but I catch back up quickly enough.) And my wife continues to enjoy them, as well, and I note a change in her demeanor and in the ease with which she carries herself; I do not think I can be blamed for being glad to see such things.

I do not think, either, that I can be blamed for taking some delight in being back at the weight I was when, in long-ago days, I did competitive judo; I am, somehow, back at my fighting weight. This is not to say, of course, that I am ready to compete again. I am badly out of practice in any martial art, and I am not likely to be able to get back into practice anytime soon. Too, I do not know that now, not far off of forty, I can recover from things as quickly as I could when I was in my early twenties, still full of fire and vigor and hope as I am now very much not. I doubt it, in fact, although I count myself fortunate that I have not, as I write this, had to put that idea to the test. (I am on the “don’t get sick or injured” healthcare plan.) Nor yet am I eager to make that trial, as martial arts is apt to make happen; injuries happen even without intent, and there’s always some asshat on the mats who wants to hurt people.

It doesn’t bother me much, though. I mean, yes, there is some missing the body of my younger years that had greater strength and stamina than I now possess; there can hardly not be so. But that does not mean I do not appreciate having been able to build some of it back up and to slim down a bit. Given a little more, I think I can fit back into suits that I bought and wore and have carried around for years that I’ve not been able to squeeze into them, or could only do so at the risk of looking like fifty pounds of shit in a twenty-five pound bag. (I am a big shit anymore, after all.) And I certainly feel better, which I take to be a good thing…

I can still use support for my further workouts.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 173: Mad Ship, Chapter 35

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


T he following chapter, “Trehaug,” opens with Keffria, Malta, and Selden in the titular city on the Rain Wild River, Selden exulting in the new location and what it offers. Malta is less sanguine, musing on the political situation–Bingtown is under a blockade–and environmental hazards–serpents cluster around the mouth of the Rain Wild River. She notes that her skin is changing, but the healer who calls in on her bids her be up and about to recover. Malta voices agreement but muses on her inward refusal and rehearses recent events, assessing her surroundings. Trehaug is described in some detail, some of it sinister.

Trehaug sketch
A view of the titular city…
Trehaug sketch by liara-renard on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Malta is roused by the touch of a gloved hand on her face; it is Reyn, and she is not pleased. He pleads his case with her, and she rails at him. He takes a knee and apologizes for his error, frankly and without evasion; it takes her aback, and she avers her forgiveness of him as she reassesses him. At her insistence, he offers information about the status of Bingtown–it is not good–and she cuts him off as she recalls her trip form Bingtown to Trehaug through a fog of injury and memory. After a pause, conversation resumes, with Reyn offering more details about how things are going and what preparations are being made against the attack that is expected to come. In effect, the Rain Wilds and Bingtown are caught in an internal Jamaillian conflict.

The pair are interrupted by the intrusion of the healer’s assistant, who had come to ensure that Malta rose and walked. Reyn noted that he would address the matter, acknowledging the scandal that would attend on his doing so–and his having intruded upon Malta’s convalescence. He proposes to her anew, and she defers. She asks him about his “drowning in memories,” which takes him aback; he explains why, linking it to the dragon Malta also heard in her dreams and noting the arrangement he has made as a result–which frees the Vestrits from their debt for the Vivacia. Malta finds herself continuing to reassess Reyn and accompanies him on a walk.

Elsewhere in Trehaug, Traders confer about the fate of the Satrap, whom they hold hostage. Keffria is among them, internally questioning her inclusion, and she speaks up in support of the Khuprus position amid the ongoing arguments about what to do with Cosgo: trade him soon, chastise him before trading him, or send him back to Jamaillia and let the nobles there fight over him. As discussion continues, Keffria volunteers to be an emissary and scout for the Rain Wild Traders in Bingtown, citing her situation as useful cover. After some more discussion, her plan is approved, with some minor modifications.

That evening, Malta prevails upon Selden to take her into the underground parts of Trehaug; he hesitates but agrees. She soon passes him up, pressing further underground than he dares, and she is soon separated from him, alone in the damp darkness.

Early in the chapter, the idea of urinating on wood to protect it against the water of the Rain Wild River is noted. It is an interesting detail, not least because of the scatological humor it necessarily provokes (and, indeed, is seen in the chapter as being, among other things). It suggests that the waters of the Rain Wild River are exceptionally acidic; urine tends to be more alkaline than acid, so it would neutralize acids and mitigate their corrosive effects more than would be the case if the Rain Wild was corrosively alkaline. While water is often slightly acidic naturally, and there are areas where life has adapted to relatively high levels of acidity (here, for example), more acidic water tends to be worse for life. That said, peculiarly acidic water can be found in an area that might generously be included within the Pacific Northwest, the coincidence helping to align the Realm of the Elderlings with North America rather than more “typical” fantasy milieux. So there is that.

New month, new need for support.