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“The Mad Ship” by Robin Hobb Book Review

Book: “The Mad Ship”

Series: Liveship Traders Book #2

Author: Robin Hobb

906 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published March 1, 1999

Price at Amazon

The second book in the series is much more dynamic than the first and just as full of mystery and secrets. The book goes into quite a bit of detail about a subject that is not at all pleasant. Robin Hobb shows the ugly side of slavery and how people are sold as objects. On board the Vivacia, the conditions under which these captives have to live are described. The suffering of a slave is described and how people’s attitudes towards them change. What is the price of a human life? One day your life is full of new paths and hopes, and the next day you are marked for life with the mark of your master, and your only dreams are to survive the day.

Dreams and dreams

Again we encounter the familiar style of Robin Hobb. Throughout the book, the characters’ dreams and hopes collide with the lives they must lead. Althea dreams of her Vivacia and her only wish is to become the “rightful” captain. But is she ready to lead the family ship? Her life takes a radically different direction. She is forced to serve on other ships and prove herself a worthy sailor. And just when she thinks she’s found the right path to Vivacia, Robin Hobb throws her back into a dead end.

Wintrow, the boy trapped in slavery because of his own father. He was always in opposition to the opportunities that came his way. When he was torn from his familiar life as a priest, Wintrow had the opportunity to learn the sailor’s trade. Cruelly, the young man had to learn to live his life without trying to put it back into the framework he had created for himself. Anyone who has read Fitz’s story will find the same approach here as Robin Hobb’s. She tries to get her characters to accept whatever fate throws at them and to adapt and live what they have.


Malta is a very controversial character. My impression of her from The Magic Ship is that she’s an extremely spoiled child. I thought to myself, “Can’t they finally take her to the rain country and leave it behind?” She was very tiring for me as a character and I found it hard to accept her childish actions and her attempts at manipulation. But I witnessed her development. I got to know another Malta, with whom I began to sympathize strongly. Daddy’s little girl, who was used to getting everything in life, has transformed into a strong woman who knows how to pursue her goals. Malta has developed into a strong female character who will surely provide many surprises in the next book.

Kennit is the second controversial character in the series. I really struggled to understand Kennit’s true nature and categorize him as “good” or “villain”. Many of the revelations Robin Hobb serves up in The Mad Ship lead us specifically to Kennit’s past and the threads that entangle him with the other characters.

Shattering events in “The Mad Ship”

And while his story unfolded quietly and coherently, Robin Hobb tried to kill off all his heroes. I have to hand it to her, she has a way of stunning the reader’s senses to confront them with completely unexpected, earth-shattering events. I like the way Robin Hobb gradually reveals the past to us. The threads of the characters’ fates that he slowly weaves and interweaves. The fate of Kennit. The truth about the Rainlands. Paragon’s involvement and madness. The collusion between the merchants of Bingtown and the Rainlands. The Liveship Traders and their nature? The snakes and what they really are? Who is Amber and what is her mission for the people of Jamailia? So many mysteries and so many revelations. It seems like the various plot lines are coming together to reveal to us a great “truth” about the Liveship Traders…

More books from the series:

“Ship of Magic” Book#1

“Ship of Destiny” Book #3

The Farseer trilogy continues the dramatic tale of piracy, serpents, love and magic. The Vestrit family’s liveship, Vivacia, has been taken by the pirate king, Kennit. Held captive on board, Wintrow Vestrit finds himself competing with Kennit for Vivacia’s love as the ship slowly acquires her own bloodlust. Leagues away, Althea Vestrit has found a new home aboard the liveship Ophelia, but she lives only to reclaim the Vivacia and with her friend, Brashen, she plans a dangerous rescue. Meanwhile in Bingtown, the fading fortunes of the Vestrit family lead Malta deeper into the magical secrets of the Rain Wild Traders. And just outside Bingtown, Amber dreams of relaunching Paragon, the mad liveship …


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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