Book Review: The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb

The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb book cover

Author: Robin Hobb

Title: The Mad Ship (The Liveship Traders #2)

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Date: 1999

Plot: The second volume in this superb trilogy from the author of 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 . . .

The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb on top of a book cushion

Ship of Magic

Despite the slow pace to Ship of Magic, I was eager to continue the trilogy, once again swept up in the world that Robin Hobb creates.

The Mad Ship is still slow-paced (it’s a 900 page book!), but it felt far more was actually included. The various characters are all off on their own adventures: facing danger, inner turmoil, prospects of marriage and sea creatures who may or may not be the enemy.

It was sometimes challenging to match up the timelines as the changing narration meant constant switching between the characters and their individual circumstances with what is happening elsewhere in the world but it never reached the point of being confusing.

The changing narration also helped increase the tension: as one set of characters escape peril, the next enters it. Despite everyone being scattered, there is also the sense of the individual threads starting to draw together by the end of the book, hinting towards a big clash in the final instalment.

In terms of characters, there are too many to go into in depth. It’s fair to say they all have their development though!

Althea has a calmer, more rational approach, leaving behind some of the angry young woman that came through in the first book. She’s still determined, but more aware of her own skills and limits, giving her an underlying confidence that was missing previously.

She suddenly gripped his wrist. “No. You stop. Stop thinking you’re the son your father disowned. You’re not who he expected you to be; that doesn’t mean you aren’t somebody. Nor are you perfect. Stop using every mistake you make as an excuse to fail completely.”

Brashen is still a loveable rogue. He’s taking the spot of favourite character in this and it was great seeing him come into his own as a proper captain, rather than feeling sorry for himself and ending up in tricky situations. I’m also enjoying the growing romance between Althea and Brashen: they know it’s a bad idea but it doesn’t stop them from feeling too much.

I was correct in my guess in the previous book that Malta would be the one to change the most. For half of the book, she’s still a spoilt, manipulative girl, very hard to like. But when reality catches up to her, she adapts, changes in subtle ways until you suddenly realise she’s a determined young woman wanting to do the best for her family and learning what growing up truly means. She gets the best moment of telling the Satrap to sit down and shut up!

Her brother, however, doesn’t seem to change that much. Wintrow isn’t as mopey as previously, but he doesn’t seem to have a strength of character that the others do. I don’t dislike him, he’s just not impressed me yet.

Kennit, however, is far more than I guessed he’d be. His attitude and feelings towards Wintrow make him far more vulnerable and human than the first book suggested and I’m intrigued where their storyline is going.

I could go on and on about the different characters. But, overall, I thought this was a solid second book with strong development across both the characters and the plotline. You’re left feeling things are coming together for a gripping third book!

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A Rambling Reviewer

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30 thoughts on “Book Review: The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb

  1. First off, “Wow!”
    Secondly, I gotta confess that I’m an avid reader of non-fiction.. I was originally into fiction, and from this review I think you might have just sold me on rekindling that old flame.
    This trilogy sounds interesting. If I do decide to go back to fiction, I might just pick up ‘The Mad Ship’ first.
    Awesome review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s much to learn about Kennit, some of which you don’t realize until later books. I hate him, but he is interesting.
    “Brashen is still a loveable rogue.” Oh yes he is! 😀 I had a bit of a crush on him although I don’t often crush on characters in books. And I loved the romance between Althea and Brash too.
    Ugh! Wintrow. I don’t like him either but yass!! Malta changed so subtely that I didn’t even realize I was no longer annoyed by her until long after I wasn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m currently most of the way through book 3 and totally hating Kennit right now!!! But wow his backstory! Aha yep, I agree with crushing on Brashen, he’s that kinda guy.

      Like

  3. I have never heard of The Mad Ship before and also have a low tolerance for slow books, but it seems the book has redeeming quality. I like your depiction of Malta and feel I would enjoy getting to know her. Thank you for the recommendation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I normally don’t mind something slower paced if the story has enough about it to keep me going but I’m not sure if I could handle 900 pages of slow paced! I’m glad you enjoyed it and are looking forward to the third one though x

    Sophie

    Liked by 1 person

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