Upon reading the description of “Ship of Magic,” I wasn’t exactly sold on the idea of a Liveship – a ship of which is indeed alive in almost all aspects. This includes speaking, moving, thinking, etc. So in other words, it’s a talking ship. I’m not entirely sure why, but the idea itself was a bit of a turn off, as I assumed it would seem rather corny. Shortly after however, I began to ask myself, “why is that? I enjoy fairies and elves..and almost any other type of mythological creature, why not a talking ship? Surely if I can enjoy hobbits I can enjoy this? ” After getting into the novel, and within just a few chapters, the idea of a Liveship became perfectly acceptable and the the ship itself became a fascinating character. That of course, I thought to myself after coming to this realization, is the magic of Robin Hobb. Not only does she have a true talent for creating characters, but she even has the power to turn a ship – a boat made of wood into a relatable and interesting persona. That didn’t really surprise me.
As well as the Vivacia, each other character in this novel was unique and believable. From the determined Althea, daughter of captain Vestrit; to Wintrow son of Kyle who was sent away to live as a priest – all of their stories and situations drew me in and held my interest, at least for the most part. While I connected with each character by the end, and Hobb once again truly shined when it came to creating and developing real-life characters, I had a bit of trouble when it came to Captain Kennit – a pirate on a search for a live ship. For whatever reason, connecting with his character was difficult, and I often had little desire to even read the chapters focused on him. His character and story simply didn’t interest me. Luckily however, once I hit the halfway mark his situation changed drastically, and I was able to fully grasp his role as a character. At this point, I began to enjoy him as much as the others. Out of all the characters however, I have to say that Wintrow was by far my favorite. Not only was his back-story interesting, but the conflict of being both a priest and a sailor was incredibly realistic, and I felt myself connected to his character on an emotional level.
Aside from the unique characters, I also enjoyed the story itself – but that isn’t to say it is without problems. The biggest issue for me was the pacing. For the first 300 or so pages, I was completely immersed within the story, and couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. The family element alone had me – and the conflicts the characters were facing completely drew me in. However, over time it began to wear a bit thin, and I started to crave for more. In truth, I in no way expected a traditional slash em’ up type of fantasy from Hobb – I’m familiar enough with her work to know better – but at a certain point it all became a bit tiring. Though I will say, my experience was a bit strange. Nearly each time I had a chance to read more, I was excited to continue – but in many cases ended up feeling a sense of disappointment. So in other words, this novel relied heavily on anticipation, but it took a long time getting to where it was going. Once everything panned out it was well worth it, and as I reached the end I was completely glued to the pages, but there were definitely a handful of slow areas.
Overall, this was an interesting read. The plot was unique, the characters were incredibly realistic, and the story (while slow in areas) was well worth my time. Not only did I enjoy the route the story took, but the ending, much like her previous work, changed everything for the characters. After reaching the final page, I was completely impressed by how things turned out – and while it certainly didn’t end on a joyous note, I’m happy to report that it wasn’t nearly as depressing as her previous work in the Farseer Trilogy. I also found it quite interesting to look back at all the small decisions that the characters, and how they were affected by them. Everything in the end fit fit together, and every small detail that had happened created a sort of “perfect storm.” All in all, “Ship of Magic” by Robin Hobb is a good start to a trilogy I’m looking forward to completing. While I can’t necessarily recommend this to just anyone – even fantasy fans in general, I can say that if you like personal drama along with great writing, or if you like ships, you may enjoy this. If you also enjoyed the Farseer Trilogy, then you’ll probably like this as well. Just keep in mind however, that if you’re looking for something full of sword fighting action, you won’t find it here.