A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 217: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 38

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

The ensuing chapter, “Jamaillia City,” opens with Malta musing on the splendor of her assigned chambers and the attentions paid her by servants. The surroundings and ministrations are detailed, as are the changes to Malta’s own appearance. Etta is attended similarly, though the loss of Kennit still hurts her, and she works to comport herself as the queen she is recognized as being. Malta also muses on Etta’s perceptions of Kennit and her own of Reyn, and the promotions of both Etta and Wintrow–the latter by unanimous consent of the captains who had followed Kennit–are noted as Malta and Etta join Wintrow and Reyn, all attired for formal reception.

Quite the striking image…which is Sam Hogg’s, used for commentary.

The group calls upon the Satrap in a hall that is described, along with their locations and relative precedence. Malta’s continuing machinations are glossed, as are the changes to the prevailing state of affairs. The Pirates–with recognition of national sovereignty, the capitalization seems in order–and Traders make to take their leave of the Satrap, and Reyn and Malta confer about their upcoming nuptials and progress in Bingtown and on the Rain Wild River. Talk turns to others’ romances, then to liveships, about which Reyn has some ideas. They dance together, reveling in one another, and Etta and Wintrow confer a bit pettily about the way they do so.

In the harbor, the Ophelia confers with the Vivacia, the two liveships gossiping. Jek joins them, and the ships note the tensions between recalled lives and experienced ones, and the Vivacia recommits to her current life.

I find Reyn’s note about the liveships that do not recall dragon-lives of interest. He remarks that it is possible some of the cocooned dragons died before their cocoons were opened–and while ignominous disposal of the bodies of sentient life rankles even so, it does offer the prospect of ethical wizardwood harvesting. If memory serves, it’s something discussed in later books in the Elderlings corpus; I will be continuing my rereading for the foreseeable future, so I’ll have a chance to come upon it again. Whether I will remember to connect back to this entry at such times as I come across other references, I don’t know; I have the suspicion that I do poorly with such things. But that might also give me more to do, here, and I like getting to roll around in this, so…

Help me get supplies for my daughter’s coming school year?

Some Musing about Poetry

It will doubtlessly be noticed by you, loyal reader–and I do thank you for reading!–that I have included a fair bit of verse in this webspace. Those who click links I embed may even note that another blog I have long maintained, and that I occasionally threaten to incorporate into this webspace, is mostly poetry. Some may even note that I have a few poems published in various places–although I have not taken a creative writing class, or even a workshop, really. My training has been to write sober prose regarding the works of others, rather than to produce my own, although I do write things and have done so for a long while. (Whether any of it is any good is another issue, entirely, and one I do not want to address at the moment.) Why, though, is not necessarily clear to me.

beavis and butthead mike jude GIF
Yes, you are.
Image from Giphy, used for commentary. Bunghole.

I suppose that, in some sense, poetry is the most “art” form of writing; it tends to be perceived as being the most remote from people’s daily lives (if the words of my students and others are to be believed), and the most rarefied writings tend to be in verse (with the line as the primary unit of meaning) rather than in prose (with the sentence as the primary unit of meaning). I have tried to fancy myself an artist in one form or another for longer than is likely good for me; I’ve tried to be a musician, tried to draw. Poetry, I can kind of do; prose fiction…much less so. And essays…I don’t have the kind of cachet that makes my essays necessarily popular, although, again, I appreciate those of you who do read what I write.

In some ways, I write poetry (badly) to feel…daring? Artistic? Edgy, maybe, even? I am not an exciting person, as may be guessed; someone whose output is like mine is more apt to be sedate and stolid than particularly daring and compelling. It’s fine in one sense; I’m much less likely to get into trouble, doing what I do. But then, YOLO and FOMO and memento mori and all that, and I…spend a lot of time staring at a screen or at a book, pen in my hand or pixels proceeding from it. I’m…not all that interesting, myself.

Writing, though, I can maybe put something out into the world that is interesting, take a risk that is not so much of one but still feels it. Just as reading can be transportive, taking readers to other places and times than their own, writing can be daringly exploratory, letting the writer venture into unknown places and report back on what they find. The road out is not always straight or level; it sometimes winds strangely, passing by sights yet more removed, and the report of them must similarly be otherwise than straightforward. Maybe the verses I write do it some justice.


I continue to appreciate your kind support.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 216: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 37

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

The following chapter, “A Dragon’s Will,” starts as a group from the small pirate fleet–Althea, Brashen, Malta, Reyn, Wintrow, Amber, Jek, and Red–readying a landing place and food for Tintaglia. She alights without dignity and takes food with complaint, and she reports the status of her serpents as she comments favorably on Malta and Reyn. The dragon’s imperiousness sits ill with Wintrow, and a tense exchange ensues that Malta manages to defuse.

File:Muddy beach 2 - geograph.org.uk - 1140082.jpg
Something like this, perhaps?
Image is Jonathan Billinger’s Muddy Beach 2, used for commentary under a CCBYSA 2.0 license.

Back aboard the Motley, further negotiations ensure, spearheaded by Malta; Althea finds herself approving of Malta’s work in that line. As the talks proceed, Althea realizes that the world has shifted, fundamentally, something she discusses briefly with Brashen as the talks conclude and the parties begin to disperse. Jek ships out aboard the Motley, while Amber accompanies Wintrow to the Vivacia, and Brashen and Althea return to the Paragon. After reporting things to the ship, they retire to Brashen’s cabin and make ready for bed; Althea struggles with herself as they compose themselves for the night’s rest.

Etta considers Amber and Wintrow as the two make to confer; her own status is strange to her, and she tries to reconcile herself to it. Meanwhile, Amber apologizes to Wintrow for having failed to find him before, to Wintrow’s confusion. Amber also offers cryptic wisdom. The beginnings of a hailstorm force them below decks, and Wintrow joins Etta.

Althea wakes from a nightmare, having struck Brashen in her somnolent thrashing. He believes they are to part; she disabuses him of the notion, and the two affirm their mutual love. Althea, though, holds something back.

The theme of arrogance, touched upon again in the present chapter, is one that pervades the Liveship Traders series. While there are a great many characters who do well to take pride in themselves and their abilities, no few of them take far more than is due them. It is not only the dragon–though a prideful dragon is a long-standing literary trope, to be certain–but several of the ships’ captains, as well as many of the wealthy and ennobled depicted in the series. Many of them learn humility, to be fair; those who do not seem either to be the dragon or to die. I am sure there’s some lesson to take from it, just as I’m certain that more could (and perhaps should) be done to explicate the theme–but that will be for another piece than this one.

Help me move into the new month?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 215: Ship of Destiny, Chapter 36

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

The next chapter, “Secrets,” begins with Althea musing on the situation of the pirate forces and the Paragon as they flee northward–away from Divvytown. Wintrow commands the pirates, and Althea notes his control with approval; she also musts on the disposition of her brother-in-law’s corpse. The Jamaillian ships give chase, Althea noting that they will suffer lingering effects of the encounter with the serpents; Brashen notes, too, that Wintrow has hostages to employ. He also notes the supposedly ornamental axe the Paragon had wielded; Amber has no clear reply. And an exchange between Brashen and Althea reminds her of what she has suffered and the complexities of her entanglements.

Something like this, kind of…
Image is from the Britannica, used for commentary.

Brashen considers matters, as well, musing on Althea’s reclaiming the Vivacia. Considering the implications, he realizes that he has a family again aboard the Paragon. And at the figurehead, Etta tries to make sense of what has become of Kennit; the Paragon notes that Kennit is part of the ship, now, no longer distinct. The ship also reports that Kennit “loved you [Etta] as fully as his heart could love,” the specific wording indicating much.

Brashen answers a summons to the Vivacia, not entirely graciously; Etta, Amber, and Althea accompany him, and the confer about their relative situation as officers from the Motley and the Marietta precede them to the Vivacia. Aboard, they meet with Wintrow, Jek, Malta, Reyn, Sorcor, Red, the Satrap, and the hostage nobles. News is briefly and incompletely exchanged before Wintrow calls the meeting to order. The treaty between Jamaillia and the Pirate Isles is agreed upon, at least tentatively; details remain to be discussed. Etta will serve as Queen Regent for her unborn child and Kennit’s. The Vivacia will go north to escort the serpents to their spawning grounds; Wintrow asks Althea to sail aboard their family liveship, and he asks Brashen to take the Paragon thence, as well. Reyn and Malta note the situation with the Chalcedeans, warning against their depredations and the Jamaillian nobles’ perfidy. And they are interrupted by a frantic sending from Tintaglia; she weakens, and the serpents have been beset.

There’s something of a denouement in progress in the present chapter, to be sure, with resolutions of several narrative threads approaching or concluded. My comments about things wrapping up neatly and swiftly, made in earlier rereading entries, still apply to some extent, although the effect seems lessened in the present chapter. There are clearly still issues to resolve, and there’s not much book left at this point; a handful of chapters and an epilogue remain for the novel and the series as a whole. I do still remain struck by the strange amalgamation of things going on in the milieu, but I’ll not rehearse comments I’ve long since made–at least not this time. Instead, I mean to plow ahead into the next chapter, doing so while I have some time to do it.

Help me recover from moving?

Impostor Syndrome

I was infected by a virus
One of many
When I took the standing alabaster thing
Deeper into me than
Was comfortable then
Is comfortable now
The ivory tower penetrating
Thrusting deep enough that
I felt my inwards rearranged
A herpes of the ego
Mind-virus lying dormant within me
Flaring up at times
And I cannot scratch the itch so well
Even if I have a handle on the symptoms
This breakout
There is no cure

Understanding a Common Cold Virus | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Just as pernicious.
Image from the NIH, here, which I believe makes for public domain work.

Help my family settle in?

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 here.

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?