A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 119: Ship of Magic, Chapter 18

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

The following chapter, “Malta,” begins with the title character rehearsing a grievance against Davad Restart. Her desire to attend a soiree in style thwarted initially, she inveigles her way into the beginnings of scandalous behavior to prepare for the event on her own. That she knows she needs to avoid the eyes of her mother and grandmother marks her knowledge of her error as she proceeds to the formal ball, recalling earlier instances of the event.

Not quite what is meant…maybe?
Image from the official website of Malta, used for commentary

When she arrives, she marks her contemporaries in attendance and arriving, including a friend of hers, Delo Trell. The latter is still attired as a child; Malta’s appearance in a gown cut for a grown woman causes others to mistake her for a different sort of person entirely. Restart, however, recognizes her and swiftly bundles her back to the Vestrit home so as to quash further scandal. She attempts to rebuke him, to no avail, and the pair are greeted by an icy Ronica. Dramatic outbursts ensue, and Malta finds herself bundled off to bed, sulking as she ponders Kyle’s responses to come and the delicious feeling of being seen by a young man.

I re-read the present chapter as the father of a young daughter who is not at the age Malta is but who is quite engaged in proclaiming herself “a big girl” and insisting on doing things for herself and by herself–including attire, coiffure, and makeup. I am not as versed in such things as I could be (or perhaps should be), but I do know that I was somewhat taken aback when she started insisting on makeup, and I can imagine that, as my daughter gets older, she will have some of the same kinds of longings–for drama, for grace, for relief from the sedately respectable routine of her parents’ lives–without the hard-won understanding that indulging them leads to various forms of trouble, just as Malta. Again, it is an affective reading, but, again, I find I cannot help but read thus.

Too, as I reread, I find myself thinking of Hobb’s penchant for emblematic names in the Realm of the Elderlings novels, and linking the name of Malta the character to that of the country. There is certainly a mercantile connection; Malta the character is a daughter of a seagoing mercantile family, while the country, owing to its geography, was long a center of maritime trade. Too, the country has a deep history, something that serves as foreshadowing for Malta’s involvement in the events of the novels yet to come.

This is a re-read, after all. I have seen what’s coming, and a character who gets a chapter to herself is already marked as one who will be important later on…

Help me move ahead into the new month?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 118: Ship of Magic, Chapter 17

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

The next chapter, “Kennit’s Whore,” begins with the Marietta pulling into port in Divvytown, Sorcor reporting to Kennit the crew’s activities and decisions since liberating several slaveships. Kennit reminds Sorcor that other pirate crews may not be so sanguine about their escapades. The disposition of crews and ships under Kennit’s overall command receives some attention, and Kennit goes ashore to sell his captured cargo as a lot.

The eponymous, about whom consensus seems clear
Etta by CyanideMilkshake on DeviantArt, image used for commentary

Negotiations proceed, with a local broker making a ploy towards an enduring business arrangement. There is a tacit offer of marriage to his daughters to secure it; Kennit does not accept it, but he does make an agreement, as he explains to Sorcor afterward before sending him back to the Marietta and heading for his preferred brothel. His wizardwood charm offers him some warning as he proceeds, and he finds a waiting trap for him when he arrives. Fortunately for Kennit, he is able to spring the trap, if with difficulty; Etta aids him against his attackers, and he takes her from the brothel as his crew arrives to support him, springing to his orders to gather in their crew from the rest of the town.

The chapter is relatively brief and focused. For all that, it serves to deepen the impression of Kennit as a mercenary, unpleasant person–not unlike Regal in the Six Duchies in outlook, though much more effective (and much more closely examined, to be sure, which the third-person narrative permits far more than a first-person). His gestures are to serve his own ends, to build loyalty and acclaim rather than simply to do good, and I find myself in mind of many people I suspect of doing the same thing. (No, I am not going to name names. I have to live here.)

It is only as I reread the chapter for this project that I realize or recall a pun. Kennit’s ship is named the Marietta. He seems to have, for many intents, married Etta. I am ashamed that it only strikes me now–but strike me, it does, and I am reminded of Hobb’s stance on specificity of wording, as presented, as well as her penchant for meaningful, emblematic names in the Six Duchies novels. It should be no surprise to see such a pun in place. Especially for me.

Reader, can you spare a nickel, even?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 117: Ship of Magic, Chapter 16

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

The succeeding chapter, “New Roles,” opens with Althea–masquerading as “Athel” aboard the slaughter-ship Reaper–settling into her role as a ship’s boy. The adjustments she has been making are rehearsed as she sets about her assigned tasks. By chance, Brashen is serving aboard the same ship, and the two of them confer briefly; it is all that her guise as a ship’s boy will allow.

This looks about right.
Brashen and Althea from Liveship Traders by Jenny Slife on Twitter, image used for commentary

Below deck, Althea considers her situation and the fact that Kyle had been correct to call her spoiled before. She ruminates on the decisions that had led her to that point, as well as on the help she had had in reaching it. Brashen, meanwhile, considers his own circumstances; he is serving as second mate on the Reaper, the work of which ship he reviews in his mind. Althea’s presence on the ship weighs on his mind, however, and he asks after “Athel” when a sailor comes to him for medicine. What he learns is some comfort to him.

Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow struggles with the rigging. He does have some appreciation for the seacraft involved, though, and he finds himself conferring with Mild again. The conversation turns to the ship’s intended function as a slaveship, which sickens Wintrow. Mild makes clear that Wintrow has to regard Kyle as captain and not father while aboard, and their conversation leaves him somewhat eased.

The Reaper pulls in to her first port for work, and “Athel” is tasked with assisting the skinners, whose numbers are down due to infighting. It is more a harvest than a hunt, and the bloody, gory work sweeps “Athel” up in it as it happens again and again over successive days. Brashen warns her against calling attention to herself. She also starts at a strange rock formation that looks like a dragon mired in stone; the flight of the Six Duchies dragons is mentioned in passing.

Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow confers with the ship. She shows him Ephron Vestrit’s memories of their present port of call, and he shows her an appreciation for beauty and a joy in it that she had not understood from his forebears. When he goes ashore in his sailor’s getup, he finds himself in trouble with locals and chivvied back to where visitors are expected to be. When he is returned thence, shirtless, he finds himself facing a rigged game; he refuses to participate in it, prompting Mild to step up in his place. Mild is injured, and Wintrow is held to blame.

A few things come to mind regarding the present chapter. The first is Althea’s disguise. I put the assumed name in quotations because it is a guise, one that has to be performed continuously but one that remains still an assumed identity rather than an embodied one; Althea is not a trans man but an actress in a male role. If I am offending in the discussion, it is through ignorance; I will amend it if needed, but I think the distinction is one that needs to be made. And, irrespective of punctuation practices, I do mark that the assumed name reads as “noble” or “prince” for all that it is held by a putatively humble ship’s boy.

Wintrow’s abortive softening into sailing life is another thing that stands out. In the present chapter, he draws closer to being part of the Vivacia‘s crew in fact, not only in name. But he cannot leave behind a part of his life that is increasingly behind him, and it gets him into trouble. Part of me looks at the circumstance as a warning against recreation; had Wintrow stayed aboard ship or close to it, even to read, he would have been in better shape. He did not, though–and perhaps could not, in the event and if I allow myself to think of a character as a person. I ought not, though, as I well know.

Finally, at least for the present, the link back to the Six Duchies was not unwelcome. It is no secret, of course, that the Farseer and Liveship Traders novels exist in the same milieu; the Farseer books mention Bingtown, and there has been mention of the Duchies and the Red-Ship War in the present novel previously. But it is good to see the more explicit joining of the two in the present chapter; the comments made near the stone dragon help to fix the order of events and relative time between the series. And while it does not necessarily help address some things I’ve commented on before, it does, at least point towards a connection that could run deeper than then anticipated.

Reader, can you spare a dime?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 116: Ship of Magic, Chapter 15

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

The following chapter, “Negotiations,” begins with Torg taunting Wintrow with the Vivacia‘s itinerary. Wintrow considers his current situation as he works on the task assigned him. After Torg stalks off, Wintrow and a young crewman, Mild, talk, with Wintrow soon offending the other through his priestly approach; Mild upbraids him for acting like the deck is a monastery, like his sailor’s self is a monk yet. And the ship speaks to him as he considers matters further, relaying the crew’s discontent and an anecdote about a departed crewman.

Pretty boy…for now.
Wintrow Vestrit by @natalia_davinci on Gramho, used for commentary

That night, Althea calls upon the ship again and speaks to Wintrow. They agree to hold Kyle to his promise about the Vivacia, though Wintrow voices his doubts that Kyle will follow through on his promise. She bids him trust the ship, though the ship’s treatment of Torg gives her some doubt.

At the Vestrit home, Ronica awaits a visitor, musing on Rache until the visitor arrives. Said visitor is a Rain Wild Trader, whom Ronica welcomes with an old ritual. They confer together for a time, the relationships between the two groups of Traders receiving some explication. Then they come to business, the expected payment on the Vivacia; the Vestrits are short, and Ronica offers a compromise. The Rain Wild Trader, a Festrew, invokes the familial form of the debt, which Ronica side-steps based on the family’s current situation. They dicker for a bit, and they strike a deal, though the looming specter of a marriage up the Rain Wild River remains present between them.

Meanwhile, Keffria and Kyle lay together. They confer about Malta again, and about Wintrow, and Kyle insults her. He manages, somehow, to convince her to allow herself to be assuaged, and they return to sleep.

Ronica, however, remains awake, and Althea calls upon her in the night. She asks only if Ronica remembers Kyle’s oath; Ronica avers that she does, and Althea vanishes into the night. And all the while, the serpents following Maulkin press on to an unclear goal.

Leaving aside the hazing Wintrow undergoes and what is either his failure to understand his current situation or his laudable assertion of his own identity, the chapter’s focus on the entanglement of family and finance for the Vestrits is an interesting point. There is a certain delicious irony in Althea appearing to Ronica after the matter of the Rain Wild Traders is concluded, and Althea’s myopia in pursuing her own goals for the Vivacia even as the ship’s cost is not yet met stands out. What comes across, both from Althea and from Keffria not meeting the Festrews, is that Ronica has not trusted her daughters, not really, with much of what they need to know to run the family business as one. Some small part of Kyle’s complaint is justified; he has not been told things that he probably should know. (That does not mean he would handle the knowledge well, however.) But whether that is for the best…and it certainly does not justify his actions.

I can still use your help!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 115: Ship of Magic, Chapter 14

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

The next chapter, “Family Matters,” opens with Kennit and Sorcor taking their captured slaveship, the Fortune, into port with a crew largely taken from the former slaves. When they are in port, Kennit reviews the charts from the captured ship as he lets it be known that he is taking offers on her. The ship’s status is rehearsed; it shows the stains of its service, and Kennit is struck by the condition of the former slaves as he tours it. The assigned captain, Rafo, notes the likely histories of the former slaves, and they misinterpret the reflexive eye-watering as tears shed for their condition.

The Print that Changed the World: The Description of the Slave ...
Something like this, perhaps, to great shame?
The Brookes diagram, on the Lafayette College website, used for commentary

When Kennit goes ashore, he finds his crew strangely eager. He also finds himself the center of an impromptu celebration, lauded as a savior by the freed people and the port town. He takes the chance to expand his influence, effectively bringing the town under his willing command. His empire has begun to form.

In Bingtow, Kyle and Keffria dine in advance of his shipping out. She asks to see Wintrow again, but is denied. Althea has still not returned to the Vestrit home, and Kyle is convinced she will return penniless; he presses Keffira to take her in hand when she does. He also presses for heartless economic decisions about family holdings, and their daughter, Malta, interrupts with questions about preparations for an upcoming social event. Keffria protests her suggestions, but Kyle sides with his daughter against her mother. When, afterward, Keffria voices her objections to Kyle’s permissions, he rebukes her angrily.

After Kyle storms off, Keffria muses on the changes in their relationship. Her reverie is broken by Ronica coming in. They confer about Kyle, Ronica casting aspersion on the idea of the Vivacia becoming a slaveship, rehearsing what she has learned of the conditions in them. She also notes the shifts to local government that have occurred, with new interests beginning to have a sizable voice. The threat to the Rain Wild River and the Traders upon it is also noted, and Keffria realizes that Kyle’s ignorance of Trader matters is a threat to them all.

Hobb goes to great pains to depict the evils of slavery in the chapter, both among the pirates and in Bingtown. She also goes to some pains to note the dehumanizing aspects of enslaving people, emphasizing that the system is destructive for all involved in it (though clearly more so for the people put into bondage than for those who put them into it). Keffira serves as an embodiment of the consumer who benefits from slave labor, able to justify it only insofar as she is able to avoid thinking about the practice. And, like many who are now in similar situations, she is unable to divest herself of entanglement in a corrupt system, certainly at a single stroke.

It is something which more people need to consider, certainly.

Care to lend a hand?


A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 114: Ship of Magic, Chapter 13

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

The chapter that follows, “Transitions,” opens with Brashen waking aboard the Paragon and considering the events of the previous night, and his situation. Realizing his straitened finances, he makes to head out and look for work. The ship greets him and advises him of where Althea has gone and warns him of some of the concerns in the work he purposes to do. The ship also turns to morbid talk of suicide and killing before Brashen leaves.

There’s a reason she keeps popping up, perhaps.
Amber: Liveship Trilogy by eternity8 on DeviantArt, image used for commentary

Meanwhile, Althea tries to pawn her jewelry in Bingtown, finding some success in addition to the increasing demands of daily living on one’s own. The shift in economics strikes her strongly, as does her withdrawal from Bingtown society. And she startles herself to arrive in Amber’s shop, at which she marvels before startling again to find Amber ensconced therein. The two speak of the Vivacia and slavery, with Amber speaking cryptically of a nine-fingered slave boy. She also gives Althea the gift of an intricately wrought bead in exchange for the chance to assist her later on.

Aboard the Vivacia, Wintrow works under the unkind tutelage of his father’s crew and considers his circumstances. Kyle summons him to his cabin to talk, and he does more to talk at him than with him. When Kyle offers an earring in token of an offer of early command, Wintrow refuses, citing his religious convictions; Kyle is angered by the refusal, and when Wintrow asks why Althea not be given the opportunity, Kyle angrily retorts that her sex makes her unfit. Wintrow argues against the sexism from Bingtown history, and Kyle replies from his own family background before dismissing Wintrow from his cabin. The second mate, Torg, returns him to his berth and locks him in, and Wintrow finds sleep amid despair.

In the night, Ronica calls on the Vivacia. Ronica tries to reach her husband through the ship, to no avail. She also learns that Althea has visited several times and leaves a message for her with the ship.

Once again, I find myself reading affectively as I reread the present chapter. It is not because of Kyle’s continued misogyny, the assertion that women somehow need to be protected from the concerns of working life, that they need to be kept happy and pampered; I know that I am in part the product of my upbringing in a part of the world that still does not do terribly well with issues of gender parity, and I know that I still have biases on which I am working, but I hope I am not the kind of tyrant Captain Haven is. Nor is it because of the foreshadowing of foresight coming from Amber, whose identity is known to Hobb’s readers at this point but which I will not make much of at the moment. No, it is because of Wintrow.

Wintrow, both as depicted and as he regards himself in the present chapter, excels in the environment of the monastery. Aboard the Vivacia, however, he is “Nothing remarkable….An indifferent ship’s boy, a clumsy sailor. Not even worth mentioning.” And while some of the attitude can be put down to adolescent angst and the upset at being utterly displaced, the shock is one I have seen described by those leaving academe, as well as one I have felt myself as I have done so. The university system as it has been in the United States and other places in the world is one that emerges from the monastery, and there is much of the monastic still about it in popular conception and, indeed, in the minds of some of the powerful within it (as witness some comments by a notable medievalist in May 2019, with which many disagree vociferously). So a monkish character might well invite identification from a bookish reader–and, as someone who spent twelve years in college earning three degrees in English (and focusing on medieval/ist literatures, no less!), I qualify as such a reader.

I did well in school, perhaps not as well as Wintrow in the monastery, but still enough to think that I was somehow special; life outside academe, though it goes well for me now, has disabused me of that notion. And I had my shift, my change well into my 30s; how much worse it would have to be for an adolescent…

Again, I read affectively, something I should know better than to do, given my academic background and formal training. But I still do it, which may be why I could not find a permanent place in the professoriate to which I trained.

It’s hot, here, but it’d be cool of you to send support!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 113: Ship of Magic, Chapter 12

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

The next chapter, “Of Derelicts and Slaveships,” starts with the Paragon recalling times underwater, interacting with serpents. He is interrupted by Althea, with whom he begins to converse, if sullenly. She asks if she can sleep aboard him, and he agrees, though he notes that Brashen is staying aboard him, as well. She boards him for a night’s berthing, anyway, and he reflects on their earlier relationship.

Quite the figurehead.
Paragon by willowplwn on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Brashen soon returns and makes for his own bunk. Althea asks for his advice, and he advises her to return home, and swiftly, noting that his own situation is in part because he waited too long to do so, himself. He also notes to her that she will have trouble finding work aboard ship because of her family connections, the Traders being fractious. He also warns her of the dangers of being a woman among a mostly-male crew, and she despairs of her course of action.

Elsewhere, the Marietta closes on a slaveship after failing to catch a liveship, the Ringsgold. Kennit and Sorcor confer regarding the pursuit, Kennit assigning it to Sorcor. He watches, coldly calculating, as his mate conducts a successful capture, and his attentions turn towards the serpents that follow the slaver. He finds himself entranced by them until the battle is ended, and he finds himself rebuking Sorcor after the mate reports the victory and its cost to the crew. He also assigns the taken ship to another crew member and considers the need to eliminate Sorcor.

The chapter makes a motion towards Althea adopting a trans identity. A number of scholars speak to such concerns in Hobb, though most focus on the Six Duchies novels rather than the Liveship Traders works. Katavić, Melville, Mohon, Räsänen, Sanderson, and Schouwenaars each offers an example; I need not reiterate what they have already aptly discussed, though what they do discuss begins to apply in the present chapter.

The chapter also reinforces earlier impressions of Kennit. He remains more concerned with money than with people–unsurprisingly for a pirate, of course, but still stunning against what he himself admits is a horrible situation. Similarly, the cooling regard in which he holds his mate is striking, even if not unsurprising for so mercenary a person in so mercenary a profession and position as piracy. The mate is a threat to him, particularly after the boost of a successful raid he led, and such a position as a pirate captain’s is not a stable one. Parts of the old internet chestnut The Evil Overlord List come to mind, particularly the comments about lieutenants (and I admit to being happy still to be able to bring that bit into the work I do; it remains fun, and I am not doing this for money or acclaim at this point, even if a bit of funding would be welcome).

Please continue to support this project!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 112: Ship of Magic, Chapter 11

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

The following chapter, “Consequences and Reflections,” opens with Althea consulting the Bingtown equivalent of an attorney regarding the terms of her father’s will. They are, unfortunately, clear, and clearly not in her favor. She also asks about Kyle’s oath about ceding the Vivacia to her if she could present proof of her honest sailor’s skills; her interlocutor notes that it would likely work, but counsels her against pursuing the action.

-Amber- by AngellaMireille on DeviantArt, used for commentary

After Althea leaves, she fumes, musing on her situation, and determines that she will not live on her sister’s charity. She also calls upon the Vivacia at the docks, reminiscing on the status of women among sailors as she does so. As she begins to confer with the ship, she realizes that she can feel Wintrow at work aboard her–and that his suffering marks the ship, to its potential future peril. When she is interrupted by Torg, she sits upon her anger and counsels the ship to set it aside; the ship does not, but acts against the mate.

As Althea leaves, promising to return to the ship, she wonders about the ship’s intentions and harbors dark thoughts of her own. She also has an uncomfortable encounter with Amber, though the two exchange no words, and there is no hostility made manifest between the two. After, she eats and gives thought to how she will proceed afterward, being unwilling to accept more of her family’s charity, and she begins to realize how dire her family’s situation is. She also gives more thought to the Vivacia and her nascent development, comparing her to other notable liveships–including the Paragon, whose history she rehearses in part; the part is tragic enough.

After the meal, she sends a note to Ronica and walks out amid the shops selling goods from up the Rain Wild River. She sees Amber again, at her shop this time, and considers her situation again before making her way towards the beached Paragon.

The story of the Paragon that Althea rehearses is, as noted, a tragic one, the more so given that it depicts the ship as having come into consciousness amid fear and pain. Death has already been established as necessary to quicken a liveship–three generations of a single bloodline–with implications that the Liveship Traders novels do begin to investigate, but there is a patent difference between lives ending of old age and its often-associated infirmities and the calamities that befell those whose lives quickened the Paragon. It is hardly to be wondered at that a consciousness that forms amid such trauma would have problems, as ascertained by the standards generally applied. (How apt the application is is something with which the books concern themselves later.) The repeated traumas clearly do not help, either.

Help me recover from the weekend’s holiday?


A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 111: Ship of Magic, Chapter 10

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

The following chapter, “Confrontations,” opens with Althea waking to the sound of Ronica berating Kyle for punching his adolescent son. Kyle responds harshly before backing off of a position he realizes is perilous for him. Althea enters abruptly and confronts him, but she is soon distracted by tending to Wintrow. She rages against her nephew’s situation for a moment as he continues to try to remove himself from that situation, and, in a rage, Kyle vows that he will cede the Vivacia to Althea if any captain vouches for her seamanship. He also rages against his own son, sending him packing off to the ship under duress before rebuking Althea. Ronica quashes the argument. She accepts the blame for Althea’s disinheritance, explaining her reasons for it and noting the terms of Keffria’s enfranchisement. Althea cannot but continue to inveigh against the situation, and, in the face of the continued insistence upon it, she leaves.

This rather speaks for itself.
Meme from FitzChivalryFarseer on tumblr, used for commentary

Kyle resumes inveighing against Althea, and when Ronica rebukes him for his behavior, he turns his anger upon her–not physically, but still coercively, and partly through exploiting Keffria’s indecision. Ronica reassesses her elder daughter, not favorably, and she is shocked yet again when Kyle announces his intent to trade in slaves. When he is met with objections to that plan, he demands charts to the Rain Wild River, only to be told that they had been destroyed. He disbelieves and continues to rage, and Ronica takes herself and Keffira away from him.

Kyle’s patriarchal tendencies are on full display in the present chapter. He demands Wintrow’s obedience physically, notes that things are done well “for a woman,” and rages at the Vestrit women because they “have no sons to protect” them or “men to take over the running of the holdings.” He repeatedly asserts that he is “the man of this family” and therefore its rightful head, owed obedience by all in it. It is an all too common attitude even now, that the presence of a penis is the primary determiner of ability, and it is still an all too common attitude that command means the imposition of will despite the knowledge and expertise of others. I must confess to being guilty of some of the same follies, and I am trying to sit with the discomfort that being reminded of them produces in me. But perhaps I am overly affective a reader in doing so.

I note as I reread the ways in which Kyle approaches Kennit. Both of them appear amid the trappings of bourgeoisie success; Kyle stands in a house built by settlers over generations and staffed by servants, commander of a vessel owned by the family descended from those settlers, concerned more with money than anything else. He is not heir to that family, as such, but married into it and is imposing his own views upon it rather than even attempting to understand the people he seeks to rule. Might he, himself, be taken as a metaphor for colonialist discourse, especially given his physical description in the text? Might he point towards intersectionalities of oppressive structures? Might someone still vested in academe make such arguments?

Help me mark tomorrow’s holiday?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 110: Ship of Magic, Chapter 9

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

The next chapter, “A Change of Fortunes,” opens with Brashen approaching the derelict liveship Paragon. He banters with the ship briefly before boarding with permission and returning to a rack he had established on a previous excursion. The ship is strangely pleased to have him aboard again.

Anyway, here’s an adorkable sailor. I’m glad I got Brashen to look like I imagined him when reading.
The sailor himself, as reader emmitys puts it here; image used for commentary

Kennit and Sorcor confer aboard the Marietta. Kennit again pushes his idea of pirate civilization, and he begins to win Sorcor over to it, the added details presented doing more to persuade the mate of the captain’s plans. Sorcor’s vehemence against slavers surprises Kennit, but he agrees to the amendment on which Sorcor insists. Sorcor blanches a bit at Kennit’s plan to take a liveship, but he strikes a deal to pursue a slave-ship for every liveship they pursue–one to which Kennit agrees.

Wintrow faces his family as his father, Kyle, insists that he sail aboard the Vivacia instead of returning to his monastery. Wintrow tries to refuse, but he is knocked unconscious by his father.

The chapter delves further into the overt politicism of the Liveship Traders novels, especially in Sorcor’s emphatic assertions regarding slavery. The chapter affirms his experience as legal property and begins to touch on the horrors of such a status; no words can truly convey such horrors, of course, but the descriptions of the tanning work to which Sorcor was forced and the conditions aboard the slave ships are particularly evocative. (They are more so amid the current-to-this-writing protests of George Floyd’s murder, Breonna Taylor’s, and far, far too many others’.) That Hobb is pulling from depictions of the Middle Passage is clear, and it is equally clear that slavery is being presented as evil even by the standards of the evil.

I cannot help but note, also, Kennit’s reluctance to engage slavers in the way Sorcor calls for him to do (ultimately successfully, it must be noted, but still). Kennit drapes himself in trappings of wealth gotten through effort, yes, but still stolen, and he frames his plans in terms that read to me remarkably like the putative American Dream; what he describes rings of suburbia in my ears. Yet for all that, Kennit resists the idea of freeing slaves and ransoming slavers, preferring the economic benefits of interfering with the slave trade to the moral imperatives of interdicting it. Again, while such issues were far from inaccessible in the context of composition, present circumstances call for a much more emphatic, and much less sympathetic, reading. Kennit may not be a slaver himself, but he is okay with slavery–so long as it makes him money, and it is only when his continued tolerance of slavery begins to threaten his economic plans that he relents and agrees to work against it.

More people need to be better about it than Kennit than are.

We’re half through the year; send me a bit to help me make it the rest of the way?