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“Ship of Magic” by Robin Hobb Book Review

Book: “Ship of Magic”

Author: Robin Hobb

Series: Liveship Traders #1

880 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published March 1, 1998

Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb Book Cover

The Islanders

Life is hard for the traders on the Cursed Shores because the ruler of the kingdom of Jamailia imposes heavy taxes on them. As they are forced to pay half of their profits in fees and taxes, many merchant families find themselves in dire financial straits. For the owners of a living ship, the only chance of making it is to sail the dangerous Rainy River and trade with the mysterious settlers. This is not the case for the Vestrit family. After a fatal illness robs them of their sons, the captain and head of the clan decides that magical items from the land of the Rainy People are the cause and stops trade with them. But this puts the family in an even more complicated situation and makes it almost impossible to pay the installments for the Vivaccia ship.

Ship of Magic

What grew on me most in the book was the story of the living ships. The ships were created by the mysterious merchant families of the Rainlands and awaken after three captains of the family they belong to die on board. The living ship is made of memory willow and takes on the memories of its captain as it transforms, its character and essence depending equally on the personalities of the dead and the individuality of the character itself. Robin Hobb has managed to capture every corner of my imagination. Just imagine the majestic figure of the ship’s bow, made of wood, yet with a personality and emotions of its own.

Liveship Traders

There are many points of view in the book. All classes of life are addressed and we get a clear picture of all aspects of the structure of this realm. We literally see the world through the eyes of all walks of people who live on this side of the sea. We learn about the lives of the merchant families and the burden of obligations that come with the agreements made. Most of their contracts were made generations ago, but they are a people who keep their word and strictly adhere to it. We also have the opportunity to meet the evil pirates who threaten the peaceful traders and live in hiding on the sheltered islands. Robin Hobb builds a character out of each society and manages to develop and enrich them over the course of the book.

Even though the book is not particularly dynamic, I can say that I found it extremely interesting to read. The struggle of the characters and their quest to get what they dream of is told in a unique way. And although they are different and scattered around the world, Robin Hobb manages to weave them into a common thread with each new revelation. She creates characters shrouded in mystery, whose pasts influence their present actions, and those whose present actions are dictated solely by their desires and longings. This book not only builds the world of the story, but also the characters whose fates will occupy us in the next two books in the Liveship Traders series.

More books from the series:

“The Mad Ship” Book #2

“Ship of Destiny” Book #3

Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships–rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia.

For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy unjustly denied her–a legacy she will risk anything to reclaim. For Althea’s young nephew Wintrow, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard ship, Vivacia is a life sentence.

But the fate of the Vestrit family–and the ship–may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to seize power over all the denizens of the Pirate Isles…and the first step of his plan requires him to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will….


Hello, my name is Todora, but now also known as Dochka or Docheto. I have two wonderful dragons at home (boys ages 5 and 7) that I am trying to raise in the love of books. I was quite a chatterbox as a kid when I had required reading in school, and now I am trying to make up for it. I love reading fantasy, sweet endings are not my "thing". I love it when there are struggles, intrigue, and surprises in a book that shake you to your core. If I fell into paranoia that all the characters were traitors, my rating would be 5 stars. In short, I love to read and if one day I find a way to make this my sole occupation and get paid for it :D, I will have stumbled into heaven.

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