A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 121: Ship of Magic, Chapter 20

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


The following chapter, “Crimpers,” begins with Althea aboard the Reaper on her return journey from her hunting expedition, laden with cargo. A brief resupply stop has the crew on a night’s liberty, and Brashen watches over the fortunate “Athel.” He approves silently of her conduct and her comportment on the voyage and ashore as he nurses a dose of cindin. He muses on it, finding himself feeling strangely and making to excuse himself from the tavern where he and many of his crewmates have been drinking and dicing. One of the servers suggests he overnight in her bed, and he moves to accept the offer.

Sailors Carousing - National Maritime Museum
Might be something like this…
Julius Caesar Ibbetson’s Sailors Carousing at the National Maritime Museum, used for commentary

Meanwhile, “Athel” and some crewmates make to wrap up their night of drinking. One of them mentions that another ship in port has lost crew to disease and is starting to press-gang sailors found alone. The crewmates make for the ship, and “Athel” goes looking for Brashen, finding him just as an attack comes. “Athel” yells a warning and is struck down.

When the ship’s “boy” wakes, “Athel” finds “himself” under some scrutiny. There is disbelief that the tavernkeeper and server are complicit with the press-gang, but there is another other disruption that “Athel” is able to collect Brashen and get him back to the Reaper. As they hobble along, Brashen suggests that Althea head for the Six Duchies; she refuses, citing the barbarism of the people there.

Later, Brashen summons the ship’s “boy” for medical treatment; blows to the head do demand some consideration, after all. They confer about their narrow escape from kidnapping, and he doses her with cindin in the absence of more appropriate medicines as he stitches her scalp. The drug and the danger and the damage to their heads combines to push them to have sex. In the wake of it, Brashen comments on the prophylactic wizardwood charm in her belly button; Althea relates the story behind it. And, despite their better judgment, they have sex again.

As I reread the chapter, I find myself thinking that it introduces cindin–something of an analogue of chewing tobacco, and not the first appearance of addictive stimulants in the Realm of the Elderlings novels (as witness here, here, and here, in addition to the noted addictive qualities of the Skill in the Six Duchies). Brashen’s musing on the substance and his old captain’s insistence against it rings true to me; I work in substance abuse treatment at present, and there are no few employers in my area who will fire employees on suspicion of drug use–unfairly, to be sure, but it is an at-will state, to its misfortune–or who will send them to my agency for drug testing. (If they are fired after that, it is not quite so unfair, I think.) And I know many, many people who got into trouble with substance use through something like Brashen describes: a need to take an edge off of sensation and dull pain just a little bit so that they can relax. It is certainly the case that may substances will harm the body; it is also certainly the case that overwork and excessive stress will, as well. So there is that to consider.

Also worth considering is the disregard in which Althea holds the Six Duchies. She remarks aspersively upon their lack of sophistication, comments that seem excessively colonialist, even if the Bingtown Traders from which she hails are not colonizers in the sense of pushing out indigenous peoples. Still, it is a haughty and imperialist perspective, and one that reveals a surprisingly lingering blindness to the level of privilege with which Althea grew up; the conditions that she deplores in the Six Duchies are doubtlessly current among the other-than-Trader families in Bingtown. They are all too current even now in supposedly affluent places; how much more must they be so in a parallel of the Golden Age of Sail?

Your support continues to be appreciated.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 120: Ship of Magic, Chapter 19

Read the previous entry in the series here.
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The next chapter, “Testimony,” starts with the Vivacia hurting from the bond with Wintrow. Despite the correctness of his earlier actions, he still suffers the onus of the crew’s disdain–and his father’s–and the ship aches with Wintrow. His progress is rehearsed, as is an accident that has left him significantly injured and the relationship between boy and ship that is strained as a result of it. She ponders his ponderings until he voices the certainty that he will have to have a finger amputated.

Full color would likely not help, here.
Testimonies by Crooty on DeviantArt, image used for commentary

Wintrow muses to the ship about his injury and the work he has done caring for others’ wounds. He rails again at being ripped from the monastery to take up a life at sea that he does not want; the Vivacia offers him strange comfort. Emboldened by it, Wintrow calls upon his captain to attend to the injury, displaying its worsening condition to affirm his decision and persuading the captain to have the amputation up on the foredeck where the ship can observe best. The captain refuses to do the work himself, however, assigning it to the first mate.

The mate agrees, at least, that the finger needs to be removed and issues a rare rebuke for it not being seen to sooner. The ship overrules the captain’s objections and demands his presence. The crew assembles to watch as the mate begins the surgery, guided by Wintrow, who steadies himself in prayerful discipline. The amputation is successful, and Wintrow’s blood soaks into the planking of the Vivacia‘s deck.

Wintrow challenges the captain with his finger; the captain turns away, knowing he will not master Wintrow now. The mate issues orders to see to Wintrow’s healing and the ship’s operations, relocating Wintrow’s berth to the fo’c’sle with the rest of the crew and ordering a low dose of laudanum for him. The ship takes the discarded finger and considers it closely before eating it.

Near Bingtown, the Paragon sits in the wintry rain, vaguely annoyed by it, until he is intruded upon by Amber and a broker. Amber had been interested in working with the ship’s wizardwood, believing the report that the ship is dead, but the evidence that the Paragon remains thinking deters her; she stalks off. She later returns, however, to converse with the ship; they swiftly forge a connection, and he invites her into himself.

The chapter seems almost to eroticize Wintrow’s injury and the removal of the injured digit from him, spending time considering it from multiple gazes and perspectives and going into substantial detail regarding the process of removal itself. That the Vivacia takes the appendage into herself, even as she takes Wintrow into herself, reinforces the impression. It is, for me, a strange realization, although I have spent enough time on the internet to know that some people are very much into such things…I do not judge such, but I do not quite share the fascination.

There is something of the erotic, too, in the interaction between Amber and the Paragon. It is made more overt, in fact, with the comment that “the warmth of her shot through him the way the heat of a woman’s hand on a man’s thigh can inflame his whole body.” Leaving aside the heteronormativity of the description–problematic as indicated by the work of several scholars, as noted here–the sexual overtones of the connection between woodcarver and ship are clear. Again, I do not judge such, though I do not share the fascination that I know is out there. It is something that comes to bear later on, however, and so bears attention in the present chapter, where it appears to begin.

School’s coming; help me get supplies?

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 here.


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.

https://www.gov.mt/en/About%20Malta/PublishingImages/flag.jpg
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.
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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.
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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.

Image
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.
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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.

natalia_davinci
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

Disconcerting?
-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?