A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 214: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 35

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


The succeeding chapter, “Hard Decisions,” opens with Malta trying to persuade the Satrap to go belowdecks for medical attention; he demurs in favor of taunting the Jamaillian lords who have turned against him. Reyn rebukes him, but the Satrap presses ahead until Malta shakes him from his tirade. She and Reyn cozen him with embroidered accounts of things to come.

King's Throne
Still nicer than it should be…
King’s Throne by MargoAquato on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Aboard the Paragon, Amber makes to lay out a shroud for Kennit, to which Brashen agrees. In the dying battle, the Paragon begins to make for open water, to leave the fray; before the ship can do so, the Vivacia calls out and tosses Althea from herself to Brashen’s ship, where she is caught safely. Amid a brief exchange, she relays Wintrow’s plan–make for Divvytown, with its defensible harbor–and the Paragon avows a desire to keep the crew alive.

Wintrow offers the Jamaillian nobles a chance to come aboard the Vivacia to safety, if they will risk themselves on a tossed line. They take the opportunity, with some assistance, and there is a tense exchange between them and the Satrap aboard Wintrow’s ship. Wintrow orders the captives secured abovedecks, where they can be seen by the Jamaillian fleet, a warning against further attacks. Malta accepts the necessity.

Aboard the Paragon, Althea goes aloft, in part to escape, and surveys matters; she notes the changed status of her ship’s crew. The battle continues, with the piratical forces getting the worse of the exchange. Amber’s call to descend breaks her reverie, and she is taken by news that her brother-in-law is aboard, complaining. He rants on the deck, and Althea deflects his tirade long enough to allow sailors to tend to Kennit’s body; Etta offers cold thanks along the way, both women burdened with Kennit’s actions against Althea. And Amber gives Althea more about which to think.

Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow considers his command decisions and what steps to take next. The ship encourages him, and he picks a course, bringing the ship to bear upon it and making to break away; the Paragon follows, and more violence ensues as they work to free the Motley. Some of it comes from the Paragon, and both Motley and Marietta are able to escape in the carnage. Kyle Haven is slain in the exchange, and Etta cries out to the Paragon to flee for the sake of Kennit’s unborn child; the ship accedes thereto.

I am taken by the last sentence of the chapter: “On the deck, Kyle Haven’s blood pooled in standing puddles.” Throughout the novels, the liveships take in blood that falls upon their decks, absorbing the memories and spirits of those who die aboard. For Haven to be decisively rejected is saying something, especially given Kennit’s acceptance by the Paragon. Admittedly, Kennit was a Ludluck, a member of the family that had purchased and quickened the vessel; there was reason he would be taken in, in particular. But how many of the crews who had died aboard the ship were taken in, similarly, while Kyle Haven is not? Surely it is a significant thing; what significance it holds is subject to interpretation, of course, as are all things written. Perhaps it is a sign that the order Haven represents is fading away; perhaps it is the Paragon repudiating (more) madness. Perhaps it is something else, entirely?

Send a housewarming present, maybe?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 213: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 34

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


The following chapter, “Rescues,” begins with Brashen railing at the Paragon to retrieve Althea instead of pressing on in pursuit of Kennit. Brashen reluctantly relents and directs his crew to heed the ship’s desires. Meanwhile, Kennit sits on the deck of a Jamaillian ship along with several slain crew and the Satrap, mulling over his dire situation and urging the Satrap to calm and consideration. The call of the Paragon sounds over the water, interrupting things, and Kennit blanches as his old family ship approaches with a serpent in company. The Vivacia, the Marietta, and the Motley come along, as well, ramming the Jamaillian ship to attempt to effect Kennit’s and the Satrap’s escapes, and battle is joined again.

Aboard the Vivacia, where Wintrow is in command, Malta struggles towards Reyn. She finds him, thinks him dead, and begins to grieve, only to see his eyes open and hear him speak to her. She searches him for injuries, and he marks and marvels at the changes that have occurred in her, and they reaffirm their love and intent to wed. Then the Vivacia rams into another ship.

Also aboard the Vivacia, Althea notes Wintrow’s command ability as she, along with others, responds to his orders. She also rehearses her hatred of Kennit and desire to see him undone until the Vivacia joins the fray and she wades into combat behind Jek.

Aboard the Jamaillian ship, Kennit attempts to fight off the sailors tasked with killing him and the Satrap. He is run through for his efforts, and stabbed again when the crew realizes he is not yet slain. Wintrow arrives to see Kennit assailed and kills his attacker, knowing despite Etta’s pleas that the pirate leader is doomed. Kennit and the Satrap are recovered, Althea fuming that Wintrow still attends her attacker, and Malta, still exulting in Reyn, takes the Satrap aside. Others work to get Kennit to the foredeck of the Paragon.

Etta tends to Kennit as he languishes; the pirate bids her take the wizardwood charm from his wrist and keep it until the birth of their child, whom he asks be named Paragon. The Vivacia takes Kennit up and offers him to the Paragon, bidding Etta accompany him to the other ship; the Paragon opens blue eyes to gaze upon the pirate as he is taken aboard, with Etta following. And he dies into his family’s liveship at last.

I find Althea’s internality perhaps most convincing in the chapter. The tensions she feels and notes…compel me. And while I take Hobb’s point that even such people as Kennit have others who love them, I do not find myself sympathizing with the pirate. Indeed, a return home for him is a kinder fate than he probably deserves. Not so for Reyn and Malta, though; although their infatuation is inopportune, it makes sense, and they’ve had to put up with enough that they ought to get some kind of happy ending. They’re not the only ones, admittedly, and Hobb does have a tendency to thwart her characters’ happiness…but, then, that’s life. Who among us has untrammeled joy after having lived in the world?

The move is tomorrow; lend a hand?

Pancreatitis Took Him. He Was 71.

On a crystal morning when I heard the dewdrops falling
Down from a gleaming heaven, it was your voice I heard calling
And when I come home again from a world that’s not for me,
It’s been your songs that set me free.

The subject.
Image from Robby Steinhardt’s website, used for commentary.

Hey there, violinist, I don’t ask why you had to go;
I got to hear your stories, wish I could’ve seen your show,
Open-eyed and laughing, but now you’ve gone away.
I know none of us can stay.

Here I am, still following your sign,
Listening closely, hearing things align.
I am still here, and you’re not there,
But your song’s still ringing through the air.

I could ask, o, singer, what it’s like to be so old,
See the summers passing and the winters growing cold
While your body’s failing you, though your soul feels new,
But that, I can never do.

Here I am, still following your sign,
Listening closely, hearing things align.
I am still here, and you’re not there,
But your song’s still ringing through the air.

It’s no simple thing, seeing through the eyes
Of belov’d artists and to their works reprise;
They e’er remain, they’re always standing there,
And their works, still miracles found everywhere.

You sang your songs to many, and many long years ago,
And I, eager, listen, though I know you’ll never know
Now, beyond the sunset, as our lives must ever trend;
Sometime, every song must end.

Here I am; I listen for a sign,
Hear the song again, know things will be fine,
Though I’m still here, and you’re not there.
Your song’s still ringing through the air.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 212: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 33

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


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.

Shocking, yes.
Image from Giphy.com, used for commentary.

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.

Care to help me out?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 211: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 32

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


The following chapter, “An Ultimatum,” starts with Wintrow ushering Althea, Malta, Jek, and the Satrap belowdecks, bringing them food; he shortly excuses himself and overhears the Vivacia conferring with Kennit about heading north with the serpents. Kennit dickers for more time to conclude his arrangement with the Satrap and deliver him back to Jamaillia; the ship notes that the serpents have no time for that, and Kennit reluctantly accedes to the ship’s terms.

The Liveship Traders: Volume 3 - Ship of Destiny: Tintaglia
Seems to fit.
Source in the image, used for commentary.

Wintrow returns to the cabin where the others wait in annoyance and reports the status of the ongoing negotiations. After a terse exchange, the Vestrits begin to swap stories of their travels. Events are glossed, and the group, sans the Satrap, determine to kill Kennit once the ship is made aware of who and what he truly is. Their further conversation is interrupted by the ship summoning the serpents, after which, with the Satrap sleeping, Malta relates her tale; reactions from the others are noted. Wintrow again goes out on deck to observe.

All the while, Kennit waits, watching the other ships and considering their likely actions and what he will do in response. The Vivacia reports the unrest and division among the serpents, as well as the threats they have issued, and Kennit orders what serpents will to attack the Jamaillian fleet as Wintrow joins him. They both note the diminished but still substantial capacities of the serpents as they go about their destructive work. After one of them is injured, the others rage against the Jamaillian fleet, and Kennit summons Etta back from the Marietta.

Aloft, Tintaglia continues to bear Reyn onward. She hears something and cries out; the serpents with the Vivacia hear the cry and turn towards it, as does the ship, and Malta notes that the dragon and Reyn are coming. After a brief pause, the group goes out on deck to see Kennit horrified as the dragon summons the serpents away; Tintaglia drops Reyn in the water as she withdraws, and the boat ferrying Etta to the Vivacia draws him up before he drowns.

The present chapter feels somewhat rushed as I read it again, with multiple narrative threads twining together in rapid succession. I suppose part of that is my own present feeling of haste; I have a lot going on at the moment, which should be no surprise. Part, though, likely stems from narrative necessity; the book is getting close to its end, and with it, the series. As such, things that will be wrapped up have to be wrapped up, and while it is the case that leaving things open-ended helps to foster the verisimilitude Hobb identifies as necessary to fantasy fiction–readers’ lives do not wrap up neatly, after all–there is an expectation that novels will close off at least some of the narrative lines they begin. There is some value in thwarting readerly expectations, to be sure, but there is only so far a work can go in doing so and have the author get more readership later on–and while art for the sake of art is a fine and noble thing, the lights have to stay on…

Help me get my family moved?

A Bit Taken from Ongoing Work

I maintain several lines of income aside from the day-job I’ve been lucky to have these past few years. Among them has been work on readers’ guides to a number of books, done as contract labor on a piece-by-piece basis for different companies. As I write this, I am working on a guide to FC Yee and Michael Dante DiMartino’s 2019 novel, The Rise of Kyoshi, and, as often happens, I find I have things to say about the book that do not fit neatly into the kinds of things my contract asks me to discuss. Fortunately, I have outlets such as this to indulge myself–and I hope you will follow along with me as I do, dear reader.

Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Rise of Kyoshi (The Kyoshi Novels Book 1)
The novel in question, its cover image coming from the publisher, Amulet, and used for commentary.

There’s a passage in the chapter “Honest Work,” near the end, in which Kyoshi and other characters in the novel find themselves extemporizing poetry (39-41). After an initial poor effort from a side-character, one of the major early characters, Kelsang, deploys ” a well-known shanty popular with sailors and field hands, where you improvised raunchy words from the perspective of your unrequited affection. It was a game for others to guess who you were singing about, and the simple rhythm made manual labor more pleasant” (40). In form, the shanty-verses are quatrains alternating between tetrameter and trimeter, with the first line beginning with a trochee (the “I’ve” with which the verses typically begin calls for emphasis) and the remainder being largely anapestic or iambic; they rhyme ABCB, with an internal rhyme in the third line (the second and fourth feet rhyme).

The form is relatively intricate, although not excessively so; it shows enough consistency and refinement to be plausible as a culturally transmitted form, but it is accessible enough to meet the stated purpose of easing manual labor among populations that, intelligent and diligent as they are, are not like to have the luxury time to spend on more convoluted forms. So that much comes off as verisimilitudinous, something that is always a concern for works of speculative and similar fiction such as the novel.

I note, also, that the alternating line-length and somewhat erratic metrical pattern lend something of a surging, pulsing motion to the text (in addition to seeming to call for a brief cæsura at the end of the second line). Given the description of the verse-form as calling for raunchiness (even if the examples present in the text are not quite raunchy–“bawdy” might well apply, and “lewd”), it is not much of a cognitive stretch to read the form as mimetic of penetrative sex. How much of that can be discussed openly in an avowedly young-adult work is an open question, of course, but teenagers are apt to see such things, and some folks don’t grow out of the tendency. And there is a long history of sublimating eroticism in verse and other arts, of course, amply attested and deeply felt; the versification in the novel is but one more example thereof, and one I admit to enjoying seeing.

Even aside from the pay for work, I’d wanted to read the novel; I was among the early watchers of Avatar: The Last Airbender when it premiered, even if I might not have quite been part of the presumed primary audience, and my daughter and I have enjoyed watching the series and its sequel series together in recent months. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do so (and to make money from it!) and to have been able to spend some time thinking about it for my own purposes. I get to do such things a fair bit, of course, but another chance is always welcome.

We’re still working on the move and can still use your help.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 210: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 31

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


The next chapter, “Bargaining Chips,” opens with all on the Vivacia‘s foredeck paying rapt attention to the figurehead. Malta balks at having been addressed, at having attention called to herself, as she assesses the others and finds Kennit perilous. The Satrap responds in her place, speaking to the ship as though he had been addressed; he also greets Kennit, who responds in kind, and several of them depart.

Even thus, she remains a compelling figure…
Malta Vestrit by Starving Designer on Blogspot, used for commentary

After being left on the foredeck, Althea wonders aloud about the arrival of her niece aboard the ship; Jek’s swift reply is unhelpful, but conversation with the ship takes an unsettling turn. What can be offered to secure Kennit’s aid is unclear–save for Althea.

Kennit sends Wintrow ahead to prepare a room for discussion; Sorcor accompanies Wintrow. The pirate considers Malta and the Satrap, rehearsing what he knows of those involved and their offers as negotiations commence–and Kennit understands himself to be in control.

Aboard the Paragon, Brashen dozes as he considers his situation along the approach to Divvytown. He is roused by the ship’s singing, and when he approaches the figurehead, he is informed that the ship has decided to support efforts enthusiastically; he questions it internally, but does not voice his concerns. He also receives a report from Clef that Jamaillian ships are in sight, which he confirms by going aloft; rumors about tensions between Jamaillia and Bingtown are noted, as are some of Brashen’s fears.

Wintrow muses over the progress of negotiations as they drag on, wearying all present save Kennit. He notes pride in Malta as he rehearses events, most of which involve the Satrap ceding more in anger than would have been advised by a calmer head. Wintrow longs to confer closely with his sister, and he sees a chance to do so in the tumult that accompanies the sighting of a number of Jamaillian ships by the Vivacia‘s crew.

I’m uncertain how to parse the chapter as I read it this time, honestly. It’s written well, as is the rest of the novel, and the events that make for…uncomfortable reading for me are not as present, but that doesn’t mean I really know what to make of things going on. Maybe I’m falling victim to the peril of having spent so much of my life in literary study as I have, trying to pull from a passage messages that may not really be there. A closer reading than I can do at the moment might yield more; as I used to tell students, back when I had them, every word on the page is a choice made, and not only by the author, so there is something to find. But, being accustomed to finding things easily, I sometimes balk at not doing so; I am being a lazy reader this time, I guess.

I’m not sure that that’s necessarily bad, though. As I’ve had occasion to reflect on recently, I got into doing this because I enjoy it; I moved into the studies I did from love of and appreciation for the things studied. Letting that be enough for now…it should be fine. Right?

We’re moving, as I’ve noted; I could still use your help, if you’ll give it.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 209: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 30

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


A chapter titled “Convergence” follows, opening with Amber conferring with the Paragon about some final bits of woodcarving. Her progress and the final portion–a silver earring with a blue jewel, matching one she wears, and familiar in description–are rehearsed, as is the process of the ship recovering memories from logbooks and reintegrating them into the dominant personality that has emerged as an amalgamation of the dragons whose cocoons were used in the ship’s construction and the blood-borne memories of those who have died aboard. Comments are made about the face Amber has carved for the ship as more of her work is detailed, and Brashen offers some rebuke for her working unsecured by a line.

«Give me a face you could love»
Illustration series for The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb
I have been waiting to use this one…
“Give me a face you could love” by Katrin Sapranova on Tumblr, used for commentary.

Brashen also regards the work done on the ship, noting details of the face and recarving–including a broken nose and some scarring, as well as an axe-harness. He confers with Amber and Kennit’s mother about their plans for once they reach Divvytown, and he notes that Wintrow’s father is of no use to him. Talk turns philosophical, leaving Brashen out of depth.

Elsewhere, Malta sits with the Satrap and Captain Red, serving as an intermediary in negotiations between the two. The Satrap surprises the others with a sudden surge of emotional maturity, and negotiations proceed well until interrupted by sighting of the Marietta and the Vivacia.

Kennit, accompanied by Sorcor, receives Captain Red aboard the Vivacia, considering his situation and the several directions in which his attention is pulled. Althea continues to resist him to the extent she is able, although that is not as much as she would prefer, and Kennit delights in the continued denial. Althea also continues to reject Wintrow’s overtures, and Kennit notes Wintrow’s fitness for command even as he inwardly laments a lack of more individual time with Althea. He further notes Malta’s appearance with interest.

For her part, Althea muses on her anger at her surroundings and situation, and she frets about her separation from the ship she had thought would be hers. The Vivacia speaks with her, both psychically and aloud, and Althea tries to parse her feelings.

Malta approaches the Vivacia with some trepidation, willing herself to composure. She is startled to see Wintrow, hopeful to see her father, and marks that it is Althea who helps her aboard. Greetings are exchanged, and Kennit contemplates his success as the wizardwood charm he wears rebukes him. Malta feels her hopes for her father dashed, and she is shocked when the ship speaks to her, calling her “Dragon-Friend.”

If it had not been clear before, it is abundantly clear in the present chapter that Amber is an alias for another character present in the Realm of the Elderlings. Others speak to the issue more eloquently than I, and there are overt discussions of the aliasing later in the novels, so I will not go much into detail at this point. For now, it will suffice to say that Hobb seems to have made up her mind by this point, and that decision sets up an awful lot of narrative motion moving forward–as well as helping no small amount of scholarship to happen, as my Fedwren Project seeks to represent.

Too, from the length of the chapter and the number of perspectives presented in it, it is clear that matters hasten towards their conclusion. Major characters in the series are being brought back into proximity, suggesting that major events are soon to happen (as is obvious from the decreasing number of pages left for me in my reread; the chapter ends on page 622 of 789 in the edition from which I am working). It is time for narrative threads to be gathered together and woven neatly, a point of divergence from the readers’ world where matters rarely settle, but still a satisfying one.

Our day draws closer; help me keep this going?

Another Story Recalled

I have a tendency to tell stories about my past in this webspace, often doing so on Wednesdays so that my Mondays and Fridays can generally be given to the Robin Hobb reread on which I continue to work. (As I write this, I am approaching the end of the Liveship Traders series; there’re three more series in the Realm of the Elderlings, along with several shorter works, as well as the Soldier Son trilogy and some miscellany to plow through, so there’s no shortage of work left on that project.) Given some events, both those I’ve discussed and others I’ve not, I’ve had more cause than usual to look back and reflect; that means it’s storytime again.

Koebel.jpg
You know you need it.
Image from Wikipedia under a CC BY-SA 3.0 license, used for commentary.

Back when I was in the high school marching band, I was one of a great many people who were…irreverent, given to assing off instead of showing the discipline to do good work and get things done well. (For the most part: I had my moments.) But as much of a cut-up as I was–quipping, often lewdly, about things the director or other members of the band said, or making odd noises with things other than my horn–I was as nothing compared to one of the older percussionists, a guy I’ll refer to here as DB. (Those who know, know, but initials offer at least some pretense of deniability). Among others, DB had laid out an interloping kid in the bandhall, one who was in the room for a required speech class and who did not heed the friendly warning not to mess with the percussion equipment that was left out; I am told it took removing the carpet from the room entirely to get rid of the bloodstains.

Anyway, DB would, from time to time, be observed walking through the bleachers at other schools’ football stadiums, taking with him a cowbell and a drumstick. He’d take a few steps, hit the bell a few times, listen, and usually shake his head before repeating the process. Over and over again, until at last, he’d smile and nod and come back to where he was supposed to be. And he’d do this while the rest of us were loading in, week after week, occasioning…comments from the rest of us.

But there was a reason DB did his noisy little walk. My second year of high school saw us get a new band director; a scandal had, rightly, forced the one in place my first year to resign (he should’ve been fired and prosecuted, really), so a replacement was sought in haste and found. Said replacement was…less indulgent than his predecessor had been (which was to the good, really; the next year, the band finally started doing well again), and he…disapproved of certain songs in the band’s bleacher repertoire–among which was “Low Rider,” a student favorite. Copies were smuggled out to the students who needed them, and DB would make his way to his smiling little spot, cowbell in hand, and hammer out the opening measures of the song–a cue that I was not alone in following.

Admittedly, it’s a stupid little story, and I probably tell it badly. And it’s not mine, as such; I was never the person to step out first, although I’d follow gladly. Still do, most of the time; make of the example what you will.

The move continues, and more help is appreciated!

Not in the DSM

Spending years chasing dragons and
Finding the high just often enough to
Let me taste the eternal uncanny and
Whet my appetite for it again but
I lost my access to the steady supply
Suffered the pangs of withdrawal from
The intoxicants rolled up in those papers and
Taken in through eyes and hands and nose
Eased by grinding through the baser stuff
Enough to keep me going through the pain but not
Enough to ease the longing that
I still feel
The methadone with which I dose myself now
Does not stop the cravings that wrack me and
I need no naloxone to end the high
That ended long ago even though
I still chase it across the world and
Sometimes one of the few hits I can get
Will bring a touch of that old joy again but
There is no treatment program for this addiction and
There is no cure for it for any of us
Who have taken this thing into us across the years and
Tried to make it our lives
Freebasing in the basement of the ivory tower and
Unable to ascend from its lower floors to where
A steadier supply can be had
Even if it, too, is cut with other things

Care to send some help my way?