The chapter coming next, “Ship of Destiny,” opens as Kennit approaches Etta, who has just resumed the Vivacia with the rescued Reyn in tow. As Malta exults in Reyn’s arrival, Kennit coldly acknowledges Etta’s, and Reyn begins to come to. The Jamaillian ships begin to rally, and Kennit orders wariness. Etta reports her pregnancy to him, stunning him, and Kennit’s charm mocks him from his wrist as he realizes his luck is about to turn, that he will perpetuate the cycle of violence done to him.
Kennit is jolted from his reverie by his first mate, plotting how to turn the situation to his advantage. Below, Reyn wakes in the company of Althea and Jek, Malta having been summoned. When they leave him to dress, he muses on the changes to his body and guesses at the current political situation. Malta, meanwhile, muses on Reyn as she attends on the Satrap; Kennit assigns Etta to assist her, and the two manage to make the Satrap presentable as Malta considers continued changes to her own situation. Their exchange is tense, terse, but it serves well enough.
Reyn ventures above deck and observes Malta attending the Satrap. He intuits that they are romantically involved. Meanwhile, Althea also comes above and assist with the Satrap; the ship marks her hatred for Kennit. Kennit seems to, as well, as he orders the Jamaillian delegation brought aboard. The Satrap offers information about the coming party, but is interrupted by a perfidious attack. Melee is joined, complicated by the sudden arrival of the Paragon and Brashen’s crew into the tumult. The Satrap is taken amid the fracas, and Kennit pursues onto the Jamaillian decks. Althea marvels as the Paragon pulls up alongside and pursuit begins, both liveships following after Kennit.
It makes sense that a chapter titled identically with the book would serve as a narrative pivot–and things do seem to have pivoted for many of the characters in the present chapter. As in some earlier chapters, there is enough happening, and it is divided into enough brief sections, that the narrative threads begin to become entangled–but that is appropriate enough in a depiction of combat, which by its nature resists effective re-presentation. Too, as in some earlier chapters, there is something of the romance novel or soap opera about the present chapter; it’s not quite to the level of deus ex machina, having been foregrounded, but it does seem…convenient. Admittedly, any narrative is contrived to some extent, but there is a feeling of rushedness that strikes me–and I tend not to like it, even in Hobb’s work. So it’s a problem for me, although I am still certainly enjoying rereading the novel.
Everybody has an occasional off day.