A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 198: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 19

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


The chapter that follows, “Strategies,” opens with Althea relocating into the first mate’s cabin aboard the Paragon, with Haff settling into the second mate’s berth, and Amber complaining bitterly about the oppressive humidity and fog. She rehearses a conversation she had had abed with Brashen the night before, noting their situation and inveighing against the former first mate. They also voice a vision of a future together, possibly despite their families’ desires and Bingtown’s disapproval. Althea sets the vision aside, turning instead to more practical matters of how to handle Kennit and attempt to reclaim the Vivacia. Pointed questions from Jek interrupt Althea’s reverie, and a tense conversation is soon diverted by laughter and consideration of how matters have fallen out in the wake of the attempted mutiny and successful desertion before Althea muses again on what they will do.

A studied, subtle insult?
Image from Michelle Tofahrn, here, used for commentary.

In Bingtown, Serilla confers with Mingsley over tea, reviewing their current situation and the fallout from the work to reconstitute Bingtown’s government. The Trader is aspersive, but Serilla retains control of matters, assuming a position for herself in the negotiations outside the various factions still present in Bingtown and articulating her expectations of the nascent political order. Mingsley rails against her, but she takes his imprecations as benedictions.

Also in Bingtown, Reyn watches the Kendry return to port with a shrunken crew; Tintaglia notes to him that the Ophelia is following soon after. He muses on the changes he has had a hand in enacting in the liveships and in the Traders’ society that relies upon them for its economic heft. He notes that he should be happy, but he is not, largely because Malta remains absent. Selden retrieves him from his perch, explaining as he does some of the cognitive differences between dragons and humans. Selden also asks if he is turning into a Rain Wilder, noting some fear of drowning in memories; Reyn offers the boy reassurance as he can.

It is a brief chapter, certainly, although not as brief as some. Even so, it manages to counterpoint the previous chapter well; I note again the parallels between Malta’s work and Serilla’s, as well as the ways in which they run askew of one another (discussed here and here, among others, and with a content warning). And I note the overt consideration of unintended consequences on Reyn’s part; reintroducing a powerful species to the world after it had been driven nearly to extinction cannot but alter things. Hobb is scarcely the first author to treat such ideas, of course; Crichton is perhaps the most prominent prior example, but he is not the only one. Still, it tends to be something treated less in fantasy fiction than in science fiction, and it makes for an interesting thought experiment, in any case.

Friends, can you spare a dime?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 196: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 17

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


The following chapter, “Bingtown Negotiations,” starts with Ronica looking over the remains of the old Traders’ Concourse as the people of Bingtown gather together. She notes, too, that the people assembled are strangely equal, affected alike by war and grief. Notably, Serilla, Caern, Kelter, and members of the Traders’ Council are in attendance, as are representatives of the Tattooed, the Khupruses, Mingsley, and Selden; the last claims to be present to intercede between Bingtown and Tintaglia, and he reports on her current status. Keffria regards her son strangely, taken aback by the changes to him.

The assembly begins to confer, fractiously at first, spurred by Caern. Serilla unceremoniously rejects him and attempts to assert authority; the rejection is upheld but the authority rejected, in part by the Tattooed. Jani speaks in favor of the position outlined by the Tattooed, as well. And Tintaglia arrives, announcing her presence decisively and berating the people gathered together. Selden again intercedes, diverting what seems promised retribution, and Ronica senses the political realignments at work. Tintaglia again reiterates her command that the folk of Bingtown help her save dragonkind, noting the means to do so; negotiations regarding how best to do the work required ensue, and a tentative accord is in place when Keffria interjects regarding Malta. Reyn rushes to her aid, and Tintaglia rages–but does not attack, physically. Reyn is, however, pulled into her psychic power, where he is shown Malta. But even that revelation does not bind him to her will; negotiations continue, and it is averred that all who seek to remain in Bingtown and the Rain Wilds will agree to the arrangement and to the governance of the Bingtown Council, which is opened to new elections from among all the groups present.

Bingtown appears to be on the rise from the nadir of the previous chapter, with new beginnings and what seems to be a more stable, inclusive form of government in the offering. I am reminded again of parallels to the stories about the emergence of the United States (stories, I emphasize; I know that the histories are not so happy or fortunate, and that current events continue not to be so), and I do note that Hobb’s parallel is more open than even those happy tales. Women and minority populations are explicitly and specifically included, and those who had been enslaved are afforded equal status in the emerging system, with slavery being prohibited in both its chattel and indentureship forms. It is refreshing to read a piece of historicist fiction–that is, one that borrows from historical details without pretending to accurately represent bits of history–that does not laud the prejudices of the past and overtly reinscribe them, but instead offers a view of how things can be better.

It would be nice if more people would work towards such things.

Relocation’s not done yet; more help is appreciated!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 192: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 13

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

A content warning is likely in order.


The chapter that follows, “Surviving,” begins with Keffria and Selden talking on the deck of the Kendry as the liveship approaches Bingtown. The harbor is desolated, the ruined hulks of ships visible in the water and the lingering damage to the town visible, as well. Keffira frets for her family, the fates of most of whom are uncertain to her.

The Constitution of the United States | National Archives
This seems to be evoked…
Image from the US National Archives, which I’m pretty sure makes it public domain.

Reyn and Jani are also aboard the Kendry, and they confer about their own mission to beseech aid as they approach the injured town. Trehaug is in dire economic straits, the earthquake having rendered the retrieval of Elderling artifacts impossible, and the extinction of the Rain Wild Traders looms. Keffria invites the Khupruses to lodge with her, which offer they accept, and Grag Tenira arrives to spirit the group away under cover–and to the waiting Ronica.

Aboard the Chalcedean ship, the Satrap whines; at Kekki’s insistence, Malta offers some gentle advice and comfort, musing on their unpleasant situation and tending to the Companion as best she can. The value of Kekki’s advice is made clear as Malta rehearses an assault upon her. The Satrap continues to treat her as a servant, and Malta is accosted again; she falls, opening a wound she has been considering for some time. As she makes to bind it, she realizes that Kekki has died as the Chalcedeans hail another ship.

In Bingtown, Serilla takes lunch and considers her worsening situation. Roed Caern grows increasingly cruel and paranoid as many sets of machinations unfold; she wonders how to place herself among them in the wake of a message from Mingsley. She also considers Ronica, musing on the older woman’s wisdom.

Grag and Reyn confer as the latter makes ready to join a gathering. They exchange tidings, including Reyn’s certainty that Malta is dead. Similarly, Ronica affirms herself to Keffria and reminds her that she, not Ronica, is the Vestrit Trader. And at the gathering, Keffria takes her rightful place, despite her pain and loss. News is exchanged and counsel taken for how to proceed; the potential for a break from Jamaillia and a new system of rule for Bingtown is discussed, and Reyn, at Selden’s prompting, begins to explicate some of the longer history of Bingtown and the Rain Wilds.

I am again taken by the similarity between events unfolding in Bingtown and what I remember being taught and reading later about concerns surrounding the Revolutionary War. (I am aware that what I was taught was markedly jingoistic in addition to being simplified for consumption by children. The latter is excusable, even perhaps necessary; the former is not. And, recall, I grew up in small-town Texas–for good and ill.) I’ve noted that in other work–and I’ll get to that work, worry not–Hobb makes much use of early US history to inform her fictional milieu; I haven’t done the reading to the extent that I should (yet) to confirm it, but it does not stretch credulity to think that Hobb is doing much the same thing in the Liveship Traders novels that she does in the Soldier Son series. And she seems to be offering some corrections, being explicit in the incorporation of women in the proposed renewed Bingtown as equals–formally and legally, not just conventionally–and noting usefully that “A manner of speaking becomes a manner of thinking.”

Indeed, that comment is more true than many people want to believe. I don’t necessarily fully subscribe to Sapir-Whorf, but it is an idea that merits more thought than most afford it.

I can always use your support.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 123: Ship of Magic, Chapter 22

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


A chapter titled “Plots and Perils” follows, opening with Kennit fuming at a failure to take a liveship he pursued. The wizardwood charm he wears chides him in advance of Etta approaching; the changes in her carriage and clothing are noted as she offers an idea of how to capture such a ship. Outwardly, he rejects the idea and reasserts his mastery.

In the Arms of a Pirate (A Sam Steele Romance Book 2) - Kindle ...
Somehow, reading the first passage, I can’t help but see something like this…
It’s the cover of In the Arms of a Pirate, as shown on Amazon.com, used for commentary

Just outside Bingtown, Mingsley brings another prospective buyer to survey the Paragon. The ship warns the buyer about Mingsley’s machinations even as the broker notes that a liveship is needed to sail the destructive waters of the Rain Wild River–the source of Bingtown’s riches. The Paragon rages futilely against the idea.

Aboard the Reaper, Althea sights a serpent, musing about Brashen and about serpents as the beast attacks halfheartedly. As her watch ends, she continues fretting and finds herself talking with Brashen again until the attack is rejoined with greater vigor. The ship’s captain opts against a more dedicated pursuit, deciding to flee back to home port with the full cargo rather than take the risk; the Reaper escapes, but only at cost.

In Jamaillia, Wintrow approaches the Vivacia and tells the ship his intention to depart. The ship quails, but he does not relent, and she mourns his flight as she hopes for his return.

In the morning after, Etta revels in Kennit’s attention, and the wizardwood charm smiles.

As I note in captioning this entry’s image, I am put in mind of trashy romance novels by the first passage in the chapter, the kind of thing I remember my grandmother reading in those long-ago days when I could spend my summers with my nose in a new book every day, and she was the only one who read as much as I did. My own reading was just as trashy, I know; a lot of popular science fiction and fantasy novels are, and they were most of what I read, then. Anymore, I do not read nearly as much or as broadly as I ought to do, particularly since I have a small person watching me not read so much when I ask her to read more than she currently does. It is a thing I must correct.

I’ve only skimmed such books, and that, not often; what I recall from them is far afield from what it seems to me Hobb does in her work. I have to wonder if there is some sort of backhanded joke at work with it; I do tend to look for such things, and not always in expected places, so it should not be a surprise that I have such a thought, though I will admit that I may be apt to see such where none exist. It’s not the only thing I find when I make to look, after all…

School’s starting soon; help me defray expenses?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 103: Ship of Magic, Chapter 2

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


The next chapter, “Liveships,” opens with Brashen Trell waking from a dream of sea-serpents to familiar surroundings aboard the liveship Vivacia. He considers his situation, now diminished after the illness of his former captain, Ephron Vestrit, and the demotion to second mate under his new captain, Kyle Haven. His history as a son of a leading Trader family receives a gloss, as does his first encounter with a sea-serpent as a junior sailor–and his realization that the serpent worked some strange compulsion upon him.

One of the titular liveships, but not the only one…
Vivacia by FloorSteinz on DeviantArt, used for commentary

Althea Vestrit, also aboard the Vivacia, considers her situation and the changes to it as she is summoned to Kyle’s cabin. He upbraids her for her initiative aboard ship and for her desire to captain the vessel, noting that she will be replaced by one of his sons when the Vivacia next sets sail. He also confines her to quarters for the remainder of the trip back to their home port of Bingtown. He also strikes her for words spoken drunkenly in a tavern, and he slut-shames her.

In her cabin, Althea considers what she knows of the ship’s history, the enlivening effects of family deaths upon the Vivacia‘s decks. She contrasts the familial tie with Kyle’s mercenary tendencies–pronounced even among trading families–and arrives at the conclusion that any defiance from her would only hurt the crew before looking ahead to returning to her home.

Ashore, the liveship Paragon listens as a pair of people–Davad and Mingsley–approach him on the beach and discuss selling him off. Mingsley is taken aback by Paragon‘s condition, which Davad explains as peculiar to the wizardwood of the ship’s construction; it holds up far better than regular wood, and some ships made of it are able to speak and move of their own accord. Paragon does not do so while the men are present, but after they leave, the ship voices his interest in Mingsley’s plan to wreck him for salvage rather than refit him.

Brashen’s story of his encounter with the sea-serpent recalls Verity’s work with the Skill against the Red-Ship Raiders prior to his expedition to the Skill-quarry. It is another tie between the series, made early on, and one the points toward other Elderlings works that have come into print since Ship of Magic and the Liveship Traders novels. I am in doubt that those novels were intended when Ship of Magic was in draft, but I did read my Wimsatt and Beardsley, thanks.

I’ll note, also, that there seems to be less fanart that deals with the Liveship Traders novels than with the Farseer, Tawny Man, or Fitz and Fool books. Some of that is understandable; the Farseer novels are older and have had more time to accumulate fan-works. But the Tawny Man and Fitz and Fool novels are younger, and they seem to a casual search to have as much or more, and the Dragon Keeper books seem to have even less. As I write this, I’m not sure the implications, but it might be worth commenting on at another time.

My parents’ anniversary is tomorrow; help me get them something nice?