Wow. What a ride. I finished up Ship of Destiny–the culminating volume of Robin Hobb’s mammoth Liveship Traders trilogy–a few days ago. I can understand why Hobb is such a popular writer. In this trilogy, she deftly and masterfully handles a sprawling plot, an immersive world, multiple points-of-view, and several character arcs. Ship of Destiny is a BIG book (800 pages!), but it is all muscle and bone; no flab. At no point did I feel that the book was padded.
Chaos has come to Bingtown in the wake of Chalcedean attacks, the disappearance of the Satrap and the earthquake in the Rain Wilds. The long-dormant dragon Tintaglia has awakened and is in search of others of her kind. Althea Vestrit sails on the mad Paragon in search of her family’s liveship, Vivacia, now in the hands of the charming and ruthless pirate Captain Kennit. Meanwhile, Althea’s nephew Wintrow, under the auspices of Kennit, learns what it is to be a man. Malta Vestrit, in enemy hands, puts her Trader cunning to good use while her fiance searches desperately for her. There is a sense of great change throughout the book, of things broken and made anew–dragons are in the world again!–and a knowing that nothing will be the same again. The story rushes the majority of the characters into the Pirate Isles, where sailors and Satrap, liveships and dragon and serpents, pirates and soldiers, all meet in one long multi-stage encounter. Yep, it can get pretty intense!
But what makes this trilogy so fascinating to me is how Hobb, in spite of the scope, never loses sight of her characters. In spite of the talk of destiny and fate, I never felt like the characters were pawns in service of the Story (except for one glaring incident involving Kennit which still does not ring true to me); rather they and their actions make the story. Hobb takes special care in developing all of her characters, especially the pirate Captain Kennit (who I loathe, in a weird fascinated/repulsed kinda way). I enjoyed watching Malta grow from a spoiled brat into an independent, smart young woman. I found the tortured Paragon to be a deeply sympathetic and interesting character.
If you love epics, this ambitious nautical fantasy certainly delivers. Thanks to my friend M. for introducing me to Hobb’s work! *waves* (See, it only took me a couple years to go through all the Hobb novels you sent :D).