JohnDesu Reviews

Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb

Summary

In the powerful conclusion to the Liveship Traders trilogy, Robin Hobb weaves the spellbinding story of a once-thriving city on the brink of ruin, a glorious and mythic species on the edge of extinction, and the Vestrit clan, whose destiny is intertwined with both….

As Bingtown slides toward disaster, clan matriarch Ronica Vestrit, branded a traitor, searches for a way to bring the city’s inhabitants together against the Chalcedean threat. Meanwhile, Althea Vestrit, unaware of what has befallen Bingtown and her family, continues her perilous quest to track down and recover her liveship Vivacia from the ruthless pirate Kennit.

Bold though it is, her scheme may be in vain. For her beloved Vivacia will face the most terrible confrontation of all as the secret of the liveships is revealed. It is a truth so shattering, it may destroy Vivacia and all who love her, including the boy-priest Wintrow Vestrit, whose life already hangs in the balance….

Review

I finally managed to finish Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy. After finishing the first book, Ship of Magic, I recognized that this series had tons of potential. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that it lived up to it. I think that the first two books in the series were well written and entertaining for the most part, though I never found myself falling in love with the story like some of Hobb’s other works. Unfortunately, I lost interest in many of the characters and most of the story part of the way through the final book.

The maritime element puts this series in a unique position when compared to many other fantasy books and it certainly seemed like Robin Hobb had done her research, making it all the more convincing. Also, this series has a very strong and pervasive feminine element to it. This is not to say that there aren’t any prominent male characters - like the fantastically written antihero Kennit. But, throughout the three novels, Hobb devotes a lot more time to female cast.

And it’s quite the cast of female characters as well. We have the tomboy in the character of Althea Vestrit. We have Althea’s niece, Malta, who begins the series as a spoiled adolescent but transforms into a responsible, thoughtful young adult. With Etta, we have a whore who also transformed and improved her life due to her deep love for Kennit. We have the wise and elderly head of the Vestrit household Ronica. There are other, less major female characters as well that still play an important role: Serilla, Ronica and Keffria. Finally, we have Vivacia and Tintaglia who explore femininity without the burden of humanity.

Now, what lessened my love for this series towards the end…

Nothing about the third book was particularly bad. Parts of it were immensely entertaining in fact. My biggest gripe with the book is that nothing was unexpected or surprising. The big reveal explaining the connection between the serpents/live ships/rain wilders was pretty obvious to me a long time before it happened. I also found that I stopped liking the characters towards the end. I realized that some of them were just passive and boring characters that ended up with rewarding outcomes by making internal transitions that didn’t seem entirely justified to me. Thankfully, Hobb juggles a lot of different character’s perspectives so it normally wasn’t too long until I got back to a character I like.

There was also a new political side to the book involving Serilla and Jamaillia’s relations to Bingtown that I felt was poorly explained and ultimately didn’t contribute much to the story. I don’t want to call it filler, because I bet many did enjoy the new dynamic that plot brought to the overall story, but I just found it to be unimportant and think it slowed down the more interesting plot elements.

My final complaint is that the ending of the series was quite mediocre. All of the sudden a whole realm full of war and chaos is peaceful and pretty much all the characters have “happily ever after” endings. Everything is neatly wrapped up in the last 100 or so pages but many of the details that most interested me are glossed over completely.

Verdict

A fantastic series overall with a lot to love. However, I do think it didn’t need to be 2,000+ pages long. A lot of the subplots in the story that took up a lot of pages didn’t really pan out for me. On the bright side, strong female characters and an believable maritime setting to the story. I think the series is well worth reading, but it could have finished stronger.

This Book - C+

The Trilogy - B+