The Pyrates is a parody of swashbuckling pirate tales like Treasure Island and Captain Blood but and especially of swashbuckling movies of the 30s and...moreThe Pyrates is a parody of swashbuckling pirate tales like Treasure Island and Captain Blood but and especially of swashbuckling movies of the 30s and 40s. There are copious amount of anachronistic references to movies and actors (and some books) and tons of lampshading.
It does not transcend its parody, the way that the Princess Bride and the novels of Elizabeth Peters so. And it does seem awfully wordy and long at times. Still, I laughed aloud quite a number of times and had a great deal of fun with its word play. (less)
Ship of Destiny opens where Mad Ship left off. The Trader Vestrit family is still struggling to keep afloat financially; their problems are complicate...moreShip of Destiny opens where Mad Ship left off. The Trader Vestrit family is still struggling to keep afloat financially; their problems are complicated by a general collapse of society. The Sartrap (emperor) has disappeared while on a diplomatic mission to their town, they are accused of being traitors, and enemies threaten to invade. Meanwhile, not too far away, Kennit is still attempting to become the legitimate King of the Pirate Isles, using the liveship, Vivacia, which he stole from the Vestrits. And Althea Vestrit is sailing towards him in the insane liveship, Paragon, hoping to enact a rescue.
Most of the storylines converge together for the end and we finally learn the secrets of the liveships, the sea serpents, the Rain Wilds, and the dragons. Character development continues to be wonderful. Especially Malta. The little brat from the first novel (whom I wanted to slap soundly) has become interesting and sympathetic. Her initial interactions with the Sartrap are priceless.
Kennit also changes, crossing the line from ambiguous villain to true villain. I kind of wish Hobb hadn’t pushed him quite that far. Kyle Haven, Wintrow’s horrible father, had a rather anticlimactic ending. Though I admit I’d be at a loss as how to wrap up his story up satisfactorily. Minor quibbles, really.
The trilogy ends well enough. Everyone started the series with something they longed for. No one gets what they wanted, but they all seem satisfied with what they DID get. I wouldn’t call it a happy ending, but I wouldn’t call it sad either. (less)
Mad Ship, by Robin Hobb, continues the saga of the Vestrit family, impoverished merchants struggling to keep their heads above water. Their previous n...moreMad Ship, by Robin Hobb, continues the saga of the Vestrit family, impoverished merchants struggling to keep their heads above water. Their previous novel ended with them in a bad way. Their sentient “liveship,” Vivacia, had been stolen by the pirate Kennit, deriving the family of its livelihood and its future prospects and prosperity. Two family members remain aboard as hostages. A great deal of this novel is taken up with the preparations of the Vestrits to mount a rescue, which they do by refitting and resurrecting another liveship, the abandoned, mad Paragon. Meanwhile, Kennit woos Vivacia to the pirate life, the Satrap (emperor) sails to Bingtown and sea serpents grow ever bolder. This is very much a continuation of the earlier Ship of Magic, and I don’t believe it would work as a stand-alone novel. We delve deeper into the society and politics of the Bingtown traders, their mysterious allies, the Rain Wild Traders, and learn a great deal more about how the magical liveships came to be. The characters soften (or harden) and grow. Althea ponders a life beyond her dreams. Brashen takes charge as a leader. Malta becomes bearable, believe it or not. We are also introduced to several new characters. Once again, I could not stop reading this book. On to Volume 3! (less)
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb is the first in a trilogy about the “Bingtown Traders.” Specifically, it is about the Vestrits, a once wealthy family stru...moreShip of Magic by Robin Hobb is the first in a trilogy about the “Bingtown Traders.” Specifically, it is about the Vestrits, a once wealthy family struggling to pay off their debts in a bad economy. Their only asset is their liveship, a magically sentient ship tied to their family. Ephron, the captain-patriarch of the family, has just died, leaving the family in the midst of a bitter feud as to who will succeed him. Intertwined with their problems is the story of Kennit, a pirate seeking to become a “pirate king” by stealing a liveship. As the point of view switches between various members of the family and its friends, each one presents a slightly different picture of events, showing various interpretations of each character. This is an interesting approach, presenting the reader with a variety of choices. Is passionate Althea a betrayed woman or is she a spoiled girl? Is Wintrow an idealistic pacifist or a sanctimonious coward? Is Kyle a decent family man or an ignorant bully? This lends a nice ambiguity to the motivations that I liked. This new trilogy is set in the same world, though a different part entirely, as Hobb’s previous Farseer Trilogy. There are references throughout, but they are not heavy-handed. This is a world of mysterious, mystical magic, accepted by the characters, if not always understood. However, it is also a practical world, with economics and politics playing a heavy hand. Hobb is prone to dropping tantalizing hints about the way this world works, leaving the reader intrigued, but not aggravated. There is a fine line in exposition. Rather than dumping it all out, many modern authors like to withhold, teasing the reader to tears of frustration. Ship of Magic tends towards this end of the spectrum, but keeps a good balance, mostly. Above all, Ship of Magic left me addicted, as I had to rush out and grab copies of the sequels right away. (less)
The Coral Island by R.M Ballantyne is a wholesomely humorous "boys' adventure" style0novel from 1857. Ralph, Jack and Peterkin are three plucky, pious...moreThe Coral Island by R.M Ballantyne is a wholesomely humorous "boys' adventure" style0novel from 1857. Ralph, Jack and Peterkin are three plucky, pious, absurdly well-prepared young sailors who wash up on a deserted Pacific island. They explore, make shelter, find food, battle sharks, storms, tidal waves, pirates, cannibals, while making innocent quips. They also become accomplished boatbuilders, hunters, butchers, naturalists, carpenters, shoemakers, and ropemakers. Eventually they escape to another island where there is adventure and intrigue among the pagans and the converted.
This novel strikes me as 19th-century version of edutainment. One can imagine Victorian papas purchasing it for their sons: a rollicking adventure story, or a ripping good yarn, which also allows the eager young reader to absorb proper grammar and wholesome virtues from its upright, manly heroes.
Jack gives kindly lectures on the flora and fauna of the south seas and Ralph (our narrator) expostulates his young readers to wash every day, get enough rest, keep a salt water aquarium, refrain from making silly faces, support missionaries, and force one's "attention upon ALL things that go on around me ...whether I feel it naturally or not." The good guys are rarely out of temper and never intemperate. The tone is cheery, sunny, manly and pious. There is no despair, no cowardice, no losing of faith.
The language of the novel is the typical stiltiness with the occasional bit of daring "slang" thrown in by that rapscallion of Peterkin ("that's the ticket!" he says). See the following three excerpts.
"Most remarkable!" said Jack. "Exceedingly curious!" said I. "Beats everything!" said Peterkin.
"Now, Jack," he added, "you made such a poor figure in your last attempt to stick that object, that I would advise you to let me try it. If it has got a heart at all, I'll engage to send my spear right through the core of it; if it hasn't got a heart, I'll send it through the spot where its heart ought to be."
“Peterkin did not answer, and I observed that he was gazing down into the water with a look of intense fear mingled with anxiety, while his face was overspread with a deadly paleness. Suddenly he sprang to his feet and rushed about in a frantic state, wringing his hands, and exclaiming, "O Jack, Jack! he is gone! It must have been a shark, and he is gone for ever!"”
It also boasts many unfortunate references to "savages" and the boys' "horror" at their customs, which increase in frequency as the novel goes on.
The "savages" are not painted as creatures that must be destroyed, but as creatures that must be converted. Not all are monsters (one lighter-skinned girl is quite sympathetic) and the white pirates are as equally evil. Indeed, the kindly missionaries (and Ralph) take pains to explain the native evils are not as bad because they simply do not know any better. However, while not purposefully malicious, this kind racism is VERY condescending, cringeworthy in more than a few spots.
Notwithstanding the racism, there is a certain charm in these old-fashioned stories. The formality of the language may strike a modern ear as stilted, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; I found a great deal of humor in it. For a 19th century book, it IS readable and the phrasing goes down smoothly. And let us not forget that Treasure Island, for one, is written in a similar, though far superior, fashion (Stevenson admired Ballantyne). The awesome earnestness of its moralizing and the delight the author takes in telling the tale, also make one smile.
I am not sure who this book would be good for, these days. The uneasy racism, the formal language, the endless moralizing... they aren't for the youngsters of today. The advanced reader, on the other hand, won't find much beyond a cheerful historical curiosity, and if in a good mood, will beam mildly on the pleasures of the past. (less)