Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book
Rate this book
Wizardwood, a sentient wood.
The most precious commodity in the world.
Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds.

But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven...

Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.

Cover illustration by John Howe

880 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published March 1, 1998

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Robin Hobb

294 books99k followers
** I am shocked to find that some people think a 2 star 'I liked it' rating is a bad rating. What? I liked it. I LIKED it! That means I read the whole thing, to the last page, in spite of my life raining comets on me. It's a good book that survives the reading process with me. If a book is so-so, it ends up under the bed somewhere, or maybe under a stinky judo bag in the back of the van. So a 2 star from me means,yes, I liked the book, and I'd loan it to a friend and it went everywhere in my jacket pocket or purse until I finished it. A 3 star means that I've ignored friends to finish it and my sink is full of dirty dishes. A 4 star means I'm probably in trouble with my editor for missing a deadline because I was reading this book. But I want you to know . . . I don't finish books I don't like. There's too many good ones out there waiting to be found.

Robin Hobb is the author of three well-received fantasy trilogies: The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin’s Quest), The Liveship Traders Trilogy (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny) and the Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool’s Errand, Golden Fool, and Fool’s Fate) Her current work in progress is entitled Shaman’s Crossing. Robin Hobb lives and works in Tacoma, Washington, and has been a professional writer for over 30 years.

In addition to writing, her interests include gardening, mushrooming, and beachcombing. She and her husband Fred have three grown children and one teenager, and three grand-children.

She also writes as Megan Lindholm, and works under that name have been finalists for the Hugo award, the Nebula Award, and the Endeavor award. She has twice won an Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Readers’ Award.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
34,901 (44%)
4 stars
29,576 (37%)
3 stars
11,363 (14%)
2 stars
2,500 (3%)
1 star
951 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,456 reviews
Profile Image for Regan.
457 reviews110k followers
June 9, 2023
Truly one of the best books I have ever read
Profile Image for Petrik.
687 reviews46k followers
May 4, 2023
4.5/5 stars

Color me impressed, just the first book in the Liveship Traders trilogy alone is already better than the entire Farseer trilogy.

Don’t get me wrong, the Farseer trilogy certainly has its charm but the third book of the trilogy, Ass Quest, was a massive disappointment for me. Fortunately, that didn’t stop me from giving Hobb another try because this was just utterly fantastic.

Ship of Magic, the first book in the Liveship Traders trilogy—which is also the second out five subseries within Hobb’s gigantic Realm of the Elderlings series—is a completely different book from Fitz’s first trilogy. It contained a new storyline, revolves around a completely new cast, new magic system, and the story took place on a completely different area from Fitz’s storyline. In fact, other than a few familiar places and event mentioned, such as Six Duchies and Red Ship War, there seems to be absolutely no correlation between this book and the Farseer trilogy.

Taking place south of the Six Duchies, Ship of Magic focused around a variety of casts with their own agenda and motives in the conflicts of persevering faith, family, and gaining the liveship, a rare ship that can be quickened (brought to life) only when three family members from successive generations have died upon their deck. The different location also provides a great expansion to the world-building element for the series that Hobb has created previously in the Farseer trilogy.

“The man who worries about what will next be happening to him loses this moment in dread of the next, and poisons the next with pre-judgement.”

It took around 100 pages for me to get used to the characters and the flow of the story but after that, everything ended up being a smooth sailing experience. Same as Hobb’s previous trilogy, this is still a totally character driven book and the main plot moved at a really slow pace with the characters development taking the highest priority. What differs this book greatly from the Farseer trilogy however is the fact that it’s written in third person multi-POV. Whether you love him or not, Fitz is a well-written character and Hobb did a spectacular job in fleshing out his and all the major side characters’ personality even when the narrative was told solely from Fitz’s perspective. However, as great as Hobb did, if we truly want to know all the characters’ true thoughts and feelings, multi-POV is always the best plot device to do it.

Hobb is truly a brilliant author, it doesn’t matter whether it’s first person or third person perspective, she knows how to write and make her characters felt realistic, complex, and compelling to read; even when some of the characters were despicable as dog shit (Malta). I forgot the exact numbers but readers get to follow the storyline from the perspective of more or less thirteen characters and I found them all highly engaging and addictive to read (including Malta’s). It was hard to choose a favorite POV here (excluding Malta) when they are all superbly well-written, but I think it’s safe to say that out of all of them, Wintrow was definitely my favorite one. Every character had a magnificent character development, in personalities and relationships between the cast, but Wintrow’s storyline simply excelled above all the others. Just from the first book alone, I already love his POV more than Fitz’s.

“I’ve just been living from day to day. Waiting for something or someone else to change the situation.” His eyes studied her face, looking for a reaction to his next words. “I think I need to make a real decision. I believe I need to take action on my own.”

Pirates, amazing ensemble cast, serpents, sentient ships, great actions (when it’s there), Ship of Magic is a superb start to a trilogy. At this point, if someone told me that Hobb is actually a psychologist, I will believe them due to how great she is at characters studies. I absolutely can’t wait to continue to the sequel and I highly recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a great character driven fantasy books.

Picture: The Liveship Traders by Marc Simonetti

You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest
Profile Image for oyshik.
219 reviews692 followers
January 31, 2021
Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders,#1 Realm of the Elderlings,#4)
As a big fan of Hobb's writing, I wasn't disappointed by this book at all!
Ship of Magic is not just one of the best fantasy books I've read but one of the best fiction books I've ever read. I was reluctant to leave Fitz after finishing the first trilogy. But it turns out that I enjoyed Ship of Magic even more. As this is only the first book of a trilogy, it makes for even higher praise. Now I would surely look forward to finishing the whole Realm of the Elderlings series.
Look forward, not back. Correct your course and go on. You cannot undo yesterday's journey.

Superb Book
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
264 reviews3,946 followers
April 13, 2022
Possibly the best pirate book ever written

Check out my new youtube channel where I show my instant reactions to reading fantasy books seconds after I finish the book.

I was sad to learn upon finishing the Farseer Trilogy that the next trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings moved on to entirely different characters in a distant part of the world. My sadness was quickly dashed when I realized that this book exceeds everything I previously read in the series and left me ravenous for more.

If Robin Hobb can continue with the extremely high bar she has set here, this may put the "Liveship Traders" trilogy squarely at the top of my favorite series of all time.
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
903 reviews1,816 followers
September 28, 2020
**Reread - Loved it more this time around specially all those small things that I let slip first time enhanced the reading experience. And there were so many moments "Ah! You shouldn't have done this, you fool!! Now be ready to face consequences."**


I can't believe she wrote this masterpiece after that messed up Farseer finale...

I read Assassin's Quest back in 2016 and lost every hope of getting back to Realm of Elderlings. But then I wrapped up Twany Man in August this and now I am a faithful Hobb fan. So it was time to start Liveship Traders, everyone's favorite Hobb books. I knew I will not be disappointed and she delivered in best possible way, giving us the talking ships, and characters who are trying very hard to prove themselves.

Story follows three main characters Vivicia - the ship, Wintrow, and Althea. Althea was ignored in favor of her elder sister to be the captain of the Vivicia. Since the elder sister is married, the responsibility was given to her husband Kyle, who was an arrogant fool, greedy, and cruel. Althea leaves her home to prove to her family that she was the worthy captain for Vivicia. Kyle brought his eldest son, Wintrow, who was in a monastery to be raised as priest, aboard Vivicia to train him as a sailor and bond with the Livship. But Kyle’s plan backfired when he soon realized that Wintrow was not what he wanted him to be, thus forcing Wintrow in to a life of hard ship on the ship. Vivicia, a newly quickened ship, tried her best to bond with Wintrow but the boy always maintained his distance and soon there was a wall between them, and a lot of pain, sadness. There were tons of other characters too but their story was intertwined with Vivicia, Althea, and Wintrow in one way or the other.

The first thing that I noticed about this book was multiple PoVs. I had a difficult time getting used to these sudden switches initially but once I got to know the characters, the ride was smooth. Hobb always put her characters in difficult situations so that they learn and when the time comes they were not helpless and readers get something spectacular in their stories to admire and adore. And I have to say there was only misery in this book; perhaps in next book or the book after it, all the hard work, learning, regret, pain, struggle would pay off. For now it was all tears and anger.

Just like Fitz’s story, Hobb here has woven a web with secrets, lies, desperation, madness, and magic that is very tangled and complicated for now. It will be interested to see all these knots coming undone and perhaps we will get a happy ending. Hell I want one for Vivicia!
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
January 19, 2018
This was good, but it wasn’t as good as Robin Hobb's Farseer books.

Fitz is an excellent narrator, and an excellent focal point for a series, though this uses several point of view characters. Some are great and some are, unfortunately, as dry as dust.

Wintrow was by far my favourite character in this series. He is torn between two lives. As a young boy he was sent away from home and raised as a priest; it’s a life he has gotten used to, but circumstances demands that he returns to his former life: it is one of sea faring hardship, which is something he is not remotely accustomed to. He never had the chance to become a sailor, though he would have if he wasn’t taken away. He is now ineffectual and scribe like. His hands are soft and stained with ink. He is not a hardened sailor, so when his farther orders his return he is forced to toughen up and become something he is not.

Wintrow is, naturally, reluctant to accept his new life; however, when he begins to discover his magical bond with his ancestral liveship, he realises he may have some mettle after all:

“For the weakest has but to try his strength to find it, and then he shall be strong.”


Conversely, Althea views the life on the sea as a thing of wonderment. Unlike Wintrow, she longs for the open ocean and planks beneath her feet. She wants to be aboard her family’s liveship, but the chance has been taken away from her, and handed to the young Wintrow. Resentment quickly forms. But who can blame her? She has spent her life longing to take control of the magical vessel that would make her a fortune on the open sea.

This is both painful and soul destroying because in the wood of the ship is a magic that speaks to her blood; this is no simple attachment, but something powerful and innate: it calls to her and beacons her aboard. The liveship’s bond to their owners in a deep and magical way; thus, when she is separated from her ship, Althea goes on a long a perilous journey to get back what was rightfully hers to begin with. Let the adventures begin!

Some good characters

Althea and Wintrow were two very different characters; they contrast well and the dynamic between the two is tense. On the other hand, Veronica Vestrit (Althea’s mum) is a dreadfully dull point of view character. Her life is, simply put, boring. She is not badly written; she is just mundane and uninteresting. Her narrative is vital for the overall story, but her chapters are tiresome. I found myself skimming entire paragraphs because of their triviality. For example, the rest of the characters were undergoing an identity crisis or they were in extreme danger, meanwhile Veronica was evaluating her household budget.

Everything else worked really well. I think the idea behind the liveships is great, and it really adds some depth to this fantasy universe. I love the way Robin Hobb has written a new trilogy set far away in her already existing fantasy world. This book was a good opener to the trilogy and it really sets the tone for what is to come. Of all of Hobbs books, I do think this one would make the best television drama.

The Liveship Traders
1. Ship of Magic- A seafaing 3.5 stars
2. The Mad Ship- A tumultuous four stars.
3. Ship of Destiny- A cresting four stars
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
551 reviews60.5k followers
January 31, 2021
DNF at 50%.

I think I'm officially giving up on Robin Hobb. I wanted to love her and her books but after reading the Farseer trilogy and half of this book... I'm not enjoying myself.

Nothing in here is gripping me. Not the writing, not the story, not the characters, not the world... nothing.
Profile Image for Marie.
182 reviews91 followers
July 27, 2012
Final verdict: a great antidote to A Game of Thrones, with brilliant, complicated characters.

My friend introduced to me to Ship of Magic because I'd been complaining about annoying stupid characters. She recommended Robin Hobb in general, but Ship of Magic especially, primarily for Althea Vestrit, our primary protagonist.

One thing I want to point out is that I would have never picked this up on my own. Not for the title, not the cover (yes, I'm disproportionately attracted to pretty covers--there's a blog post in there somehow), and not even the cover copy. Although Althea is my middle name. But normally not even that.

Thank goodness for my friend, because this book seems to have marked a change in the books I'm reading--after a streak of at best mediocre reading, I'm enjoying it again! (That can't be attributed entirely to this book, but did contribute to the exhilaration of my reading experience.)

Althea Vestrit is the younger daughter of a liveship trader family. In essence, the elite of colonial Bingtown. Liveships are just that: living ships. But you don't just build a ship that's alive, or buy one, it has to be built first of wizard wood, and 'grow': that is to say, quicken. A liveship, though, will only quicken after three of its family members die on-deck, through which they gain knowledge and awareness. And a liveship will only respond to a member of the family, especially once it is alive.

And I haven't even gotten to the story yet. Continued in vaguely topical order:

World building

Robin Hobb has built an incredible, complex world, much of which is gradually revealed throughout the story, naturally and through the characters' perspectives. The world-building is crucial to the story's success, because in many ways, its core theme is the clash of worlds, old and new. There isn't one simple conflict between good and evil or even two families. Bingtown is a colony, only now, they're being settled again by people who don't understand the land and customs--and worse, Bingtown has started following the customs of the mainland, even those that just a generation ago would have been too horrifying to contemplate. Now, the newcomers may not understand the reasons for Bingtown's customs, but the locals won't explain them either (more on that later).

The conflict of cultures is so important. Worldly Jamaillia is decadent, rich, slave-owning. And the slaves can be anyone: the educated call for particularly high prices. Bingtown once had equal relations to men and women: they've borrowed the madonna/whore complex from Jamaillia and now are looking to slavery. But Bingtown has a strange relationship with magic and the people up the river who make it.

Back to Althea. Because she's the natural daughter of the Vestrit's, who own a liveship just one death away from quickening, Althea fully expects to be the next captain. After all, she's been sailing with her father for years, and her older sister is married: settled with children. But as the summary states so baldly, Althea doesn't get Vivacia, her brother in law does.

Ways in which Ship of Magic exceeds A Game of Thrones:
*The characters matter. The majority of characters in A Game of Thrones are AT BEST observers, and often not even good at that; all the characters (especially viewpoint characters)in Ship of Magic have agency: they are making things happen, everything they do affects the plot, the story. In A Game of Thrones the plot is happening around the characters--when they could make a difference, they don't, because characters get in the way of the plot. That could work, but only if the reader has a sense that characters caused the plot in the first place. Ship of Magic only takes place because of decisions made generations ago, and how the current people are trying to live around and with those decisions. There is a deep, complicated back story that at no time takes over what's happening now, but only makes it possible. Can I say how much I've missed this?

*A Game of thrones suffered from odd, arbitrary chapter breaks that always followed only one character (ideally, and when Martin didn't abruptly drop into omniscient when he forget what he was doing) and didn't follow the same characters in a row BECAUSE. The chapter breaks and POV changes in Ship of Magic are based on the timeline and pacing. And they don't just skip the big scenes to sum up later.

*The characters in Ship of Magic are so much better. In fact they're so awesome, I'll have to get back to this.

*The women are just as complex as the men! and just as active! and compelling! and have equal textual representation in a sexist world! and there's no creepy, overdone euphemisms for genitalia! and no glorified, underage, fetishized rape scenes! uhhhh....I feel like I shouldn't have to expect such things, but I am comparing it strictly to GoT here.

*This is also a vaguely historically-based world with only rare magic. Only here it's embedded from the beginning, and while not understood and distrusted by the inhabitants of the world, it doesn't follow the pattern of: 100 pages of ambiguity 1 sentence maybe? (x3) 100 pages ambiguity full-on firewalking and suckling dragons!


Like A Game of Thrones, Ship of Magic has several major plot threads (approximately eight, some embedded in the 'world' arcs), all given roughly equal treatment, and a great many POV characters (at least eight). I wonder if there's something to those numbers. and Martin is praised because he's willing to kill off 'anyone', which just makes me suspect a paucity of decent literature in the fantasy section. Ship of Magic made me care about the characters, even without ever having a POV of their own, and _then_ they died.


Getting into more spoiler-y territory, I loved the conflict between Ronica (Althea's mother) and Kyle (her brother-in-law).Kyle really seems like just your standard sub-boss evil. In most novels (The Name of the Wind), he'd be petty and cruel, and basically the antagonist until the confrontation with the real bad guy happens. In some ways, Kyle is all of those things. But his main threat is in how he threatens, and represents the threat, to the liveship trader way of life. And Ronica loathes him for it. But he's been her son-in-law for 15 years, IIRC, and no one in the family has tried to make him understand these traditions and why things are the way they are in Bingtown. There's a lot of hidden history that's gradually being revealed, but the locals don't discuss it amongst themselves, much less outsiders like Kyle. At least once, the truth has been actively hidden from him. These are cultures clashing because their people (on any side) cannot understand comprehend a way of life different from their own.

Wintrow, Althea's oldest nephew, lived with the priests since infancy, because in Bingtown, it's an honor. Wintrow can't wait to be a priest. But since Kyle captains the Vivacia, he needs a family-member by blood on board, especially now that Vivacia is conscious. Wintrow's struggles: to stay safe, to stay sane--my heart BLED for him.

Btw: Hobb has built an incredible, convincing fictional religion.

Kennit is about as villainous as a villain can be. As I said in a forum: "[he] knows he’s not a good guy, goes around plotting like mad, but is just going after what he wants in any way he can. He knows he’s not a good guy, but doesn’t care: he just wants power. He also goes around going good deeds, but evilly...He’s a pirate freeing slaves because then they’ll voluntarily be his army to help him take over the world. And he’s surrounded by people who are unbearably loyal to him: even his sentient charm fashioned in his image hates him and doesn’t think he deserves what he has."

One thing that Hobb does beautifully that Martin fails entirely, is have a focus to her narrative. Althea's story is central to the unifying thread. All of these characters have very important stories of their own, but Althea's is going to be right in the middle of it all.

Slut Shaming

One note about the characters: sometimes they aren't all good. Or bad. (Unless it's Kennit) They can be whiny, infuriating, annoying, ignorant, just-plain-stupid, and often wrong. For instance, Althea's quest to retake the Vivacia? Well, first she has to learn that she wasn't qualified to captain a vessel on her own, that when she traveled with her father, she was playing at sailoring. So she goes off on her own to learn--and learn she does. Slowly. Which is possibly the best part.

Now that I've been working on this for two hours, I want to touch on a subject I know is important to many of my GR friends--and the reviewers I follow who have no idea who I am: slut shaming.


First you have Malta, Althea's niece, all of thirteen years old, *IIRC. O Good Lord, Malta. She takes the place of Martin's Sansa: obsessed with boys, rather stupid. Only Malta specifically wants sex. Preferably before babies and marriage, because she doesn't want to end up with an icky husband. Is she too young for this? Hell yes, she's spoiled rotten, doesn't understand how her own society works, and despite her interest, completely ignorant of what said sex would actually mean. Sansa, I just hated, but while I wanted to smack Malta upside the head, I also ached for her. She is so completely unaware of how vulnerable she is--and she does have to work at ignoring it too. Unlike Althea, she retreats from what scares her, what's hard (although Althea has her moments), and Keffria (her mother) and Ronica are only just learning how much they've neglected to teach her.

As for Althea--

Spoilers! Please click carefully, because this section is so important to her character development! It wouldn't ruin the book, but it would color the reading experience.

I should end for now. I can think of so many more things to say! If I can get this under control, I promise to try and make it readable.

I just want to get everyone to read it themselves! It's just that awesome!
Profile Image for Gary .
200 reviews184 followers
January 22, 2020
This book is now one of my all time favorites. Hobb was already an accomplished writer when she produced her last trilogy, and the characters of Fitz and the Fool rank with some of the most engaging and rounded characters I have seen in literature.
Then along came this book. Wow. The books in this trilogy run around 200 pages longer than those in the last series, and the author needs every single word. Typically, when something is this large there are at least some segments I skim. (I have developed a theory that authors sometimes become disinterested in their own story, and this shows through in those section I skim, but I digress).
Out of the 885 pages in this book, at no time did I find myself skimming. Rather, the story switches to a different plot thread with a different set of characters each equally, or more, engaging than the last. I have seen this technique used before, but normally I wind up patiently waiting for the new plot threads to evolve so I can transition back to the other characters that I am really interested in, all the while hoping these threads eventually merge.
That was not the case here. Each new group of characters had a plot that I knew was drawing inexorably together with the others, and this left me with the tension of a drawn bowstring. I am glad I had a chunk of time to read this apart from my daily life, because I have been thoroughly immersed in this story and the lives of these characters. They are battling shades of moral ambiguity, and often evil seems good and good seems evil, or there is such a complex combination of this twined in the build of these characters (and perhaps fate itself) that the characters seem more lifelike and the story more immersive and realistic.
Perhaps I am raving a bit too much about this book. But I don’t think so.
Five stars because that’s the highest rating I can give a book.
Profile Image for ELLIAS (elliasreads).
489 reviews39k followers
March 15, 2022
asdfghjasdgfajsldfhajk!! I'm conflicted......

On one hand, the whole world, writing, and the expansion itself in this universe felt more connected and majestic to me, moving on from The Farseer Trilogy. On the other hand, however......

Imagine adult Fitz's naivety and stubbornness in being open minded- all split between all the characters in this book....well the main ones anyways. There were some good moments for sure and the lore behind the story, as well as the explanation of a different kind of magic- that was chef's kiss!! But I can't say for some of the characters; they're were so gad dang annoying!!!! I'm predicting that they are the way they are because of uhhh character development, and I can only hope it goes uphill from here.

BUT, the story and the writing??!!!???!?!?!?!

Levels up waaay higher than the Farseer books for me. In contrast though, so far I collectively like the former trilogy better. But it's only the first book so we'll have to see. I'm excited to read and find out what happens next to these beloved wonderful characters I want to push into the sea with the nasty sea serpents (MALTA AHEM- that child is so fucking spoiled I literally cannot but also her relationship with a grown man....kindaaa weird nghhhh).

Let the characters onslaught commence:
Wintrow needs to literally stop his 'holier than thou' act soon because that shit really be cringee and hits close to home for me. Kyle AND Kennit deserve hell, literal pieces of trash. Keffria please grow a spine and stop bending to the whims of your 13 year old child. Ronica.....girl you stay strong ok, hang in on there bb. Brashen I'm fine with...and Althea, girl get your priorities together sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh.

Majority of the characters are driving me up the wall and I want to fling them all aside....

Anyways, a solid but slightly disappointing start to this new trilogy and I can only pray it gets better from here. :/

Twitter | Bookstagram | Youtube |
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
182 reviews3,007 followers
March 8, 2022

Last year I read The Farseer trilogy and fell in love with Hobb’s writing, character work and world-building. The Liveship Traders trilogy is one of my priority series to read and finish in 2022. I have frequently heard that The Liveship Traders is even better than Farseer, which made me excited to read it. So what did I think?

Firstly, let me start by saying that judging only from Ship of Magic, I can’t see any reasons why this book couldn’t be a good starting point to The Realm of the Elderlings. This book has some VERY minor hints to the events in The Farseer trilogy. However, the whole cast is new, and this story is set far away from the events in The Farseer trilogy. However, my opinion about the reading order might change when I have read the other two books.

That being said, I LOVED this book so much. It is definitely one of my favourite reads of 2022 and is arguable my favourite Hobb book. It is baffling how talented Robin Hobb is. While The Farseer trilogy is a single first-person POV story, The Liveship Traders is told through multiple third-person POVs. Although the writing style is different, Ship of Magic has some of the best characterisations and writing I have read. Hobb’s prose truly speaks to my soul!

Not surprisingly, Hobb is able to craft some of the most compelling and complex characters I have come across in fantasy. Hobb does a terrific job fleshing out each character and making them feel realistic and compelling. Consequently, Hobb has crafted some of the most despicable characters I have come across. I can’t even start to describe the feelings Kyle evoked in me. A horrible, horrible human. Hobb’s ability to make the reader either care or hate specific characters is near unrivalled. It is no wonder why people call Hobb “the queen of fantasy”. Consequently, Hobb expands on the world by introducing new locations, fantastical creatures, magic and talking ships!

However, in typical Hobb fashion, Ship of Magic is very slow-paced. Hobb enjoys taking her time fleshing out all the characters, the locations and the world. If you don’t enjoy slow-burn books, it is probably not worth picking up this book.

Ship of Magic is already one of my favourite reads of 2022. If you enjoyed The Farseer Trilogy, I can highly recommend checking out this book! Especially if you enjoy character-driven stories with beautiful writing.

5 / 5 stars
Profile Image for Sheyla ✎.
1,837 reviews523 followers
July 31, 2021
After finishing The Assassin's Quest, I was ready to put a brake on the series and squeeze a few other audios before I resumed it. That thought lasted about 3 minutes before I dived back into the world of the Six Duchess and now Bingtown.

At the core of the storyline, we have the Vestrit family. They own the ship Vivacia which is made of wizardwood. In order for Vivacia to quicken, three successive generations have to die on board the ship.

Althea, the youngest daughter, dreams of inheriting the ship. She has a connection with it. Her father, Ephron Vestrit, knows it. However, her mother Ronica and sister, Keffria have other plans. They want Kyle Haven, her bother in law to take over the ship.

During her marriage, Ronica had stayed behind taking care of the household and their holdings while Ephron left trip after trip onboard the Vivacia. She was the one who met with the Rain Wild Traders and kept her side of their bargain. One thing Ronica was clear on, was that Ephron didn't want to take his boat into the waters of the Rain River in order not to make their debt even a higher one with the Rain Wild people.

Keffria has let her mother and her husband do what they thought was right. Yet, when Kyle was last back, she realized she might have made a mistake and now her family would suffer for it.

Wintrow, Kyle's young son, only wants to continue on his journey to becoming a priest of Sa but his father wants him on the Vivacia instead.

Keffria's daughter, Malta, is a spoiled young girl who only thinks about being introduced at the ball, seeking the attention of young boys, and owning pretty things.

Brashen Trell, a man who is a good sailor who was part of the Vivacia crew until Kyle took it away from him. He is probably Althea's HEA.

Paragon, the Pariah. A Liveboat who went mad. He is blind and stuck on the beach. But for how long?

Amber, a newcomer to Bingtown with a special knack for handling and modifying wood.

Pirate Kennit, who would like to become the King of Pirates and his other desire is to capture a Liveship. He has luck on his side but maybe not all the time.

Of course, there are others that help with the characterization like Kennit's First Mate and the woman he cares for but won't admit it to himself.

Ship of Magic had the best ingredients to earn and keep my attention. A good storyline with credible characters despite the fantasy elements and the wish that I could meet them somehow and be able to help them. Although maybe not on a ship at sea on treacherous paths while serpents are following us and trying to eat us.

Yes, SoM's audio was long, a little more than thirty-five hours but worth it because now I know more of Bingtown and its dynamics. It made me laugh when they say the inhabitant of the north (Six Duchess) are all barbarians. I also have my suspicions about Amber. I do like Pirate Kennit as an anti-hero and I would like to see Paragon sailing again. I'm sure Malta will be in trouble and she will hopefully mature into someone who cares more for other things than jewels. So far, Wintrow and Althea have had the worst luck.

I'm excited to see what happens next.

Cliffhanger: Yes

4/5 Fangs

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,563 reviews2,937 followers
April 21, 2023
**re-read in March 2023 and still absolutely love this series**

This book was fabulous! I read it as a part of the #TBRTakedown Readathon and as a Buddy Read. It's a little bit on the slow side for sure, but actually it's a very interesting story and the characterisation and development of this was seriously fantastic. It's a slow story which is made up mostly from the introduction of various characters (mostly Traders) and developing our understanding of them and their ways. It's set in a different part of the world from the Farseer Books and it's set on the Cursed Shores (doesn't sound like the nicest area). We join the story when there's a fair amount of outside interference coming into the community of Bingtown, and the Trader families living there are not entirely sure just what to do or how to manage the situation of the new inhabitants trying to come in and change their ways.

This is a book which clearly puts the characters at the forefront of the story because despite it being an 880pg book actually only a few very major events stand out. Despite this, there's so much work on defining and understanding the characters that I feel as if I know them all so well now and I can see how they'd react and why they'd react that way in various situations.

The world-building of this book is also more unique than that of the Farseer books in that it's largely focused on the sea, and ships at sea, used by the Traders. The old traders of Bingtown are often owners of Liveships which means that they own a ship made of wizard wood for many years and generations and they gradually bond with the ship. Over time this bond develops to the point where the figurehead of the ship will 'quicken' and come to life, filled with the memories and wisdom of all the previous family members it has bonded with.
I loved the idea of the Liveships and the way that they become so integral to the town and the trade that they conduct. Not only this, but they are very interesting characters in their own right and the understanding they learn after their quickening can decide how they will react for years to come, being either loyal to the family they are bonded with or turning mad from the grief and savagery introduced to them.

We're also introduced not only to the Bingtown Traders in this book but also the Rain Wild Traders who were one of the most mysterious and interesting elements of the book for me. I know that one of Hobb's later series is called the Rain Wild Chronicles and I have to say I am VERY eager to check that one out after what i learned and saw hints of in this book!

Pirates and Slavery are big themes within this book and we get to meet one character and crew who have little to do with the Traders other than that they are Pirates who wish to own a Liveship. Everyone knows that a Liveship will only work for the family that it's bonded to and it can easily go mad or savage if it's separated from the family members, but this won't stop the crew who serve under Kennit, a man with high ambitions...

The final element I want to point out before diving into the characters is that we also follow some Serpents in this book and we get to see their thoughts as they follow their prey and seek food and wisdom. This section, although initially intriguing, was the only element I feel like I still don't have much interest in, and although we get hints that there's a bigger story ahead involving the Serpents, I didn't find them anywhere near as interesting as the human characters.

So, the characters:-

- Althea Vestrit - is a young woman who is working on board the Vivacia, her family ship, whilst she waits for it to become quickened. She's a somewhat competent sailor, but she's a little spoiled and she knows that when her father retires or dies she will be the one whom the ship is passed to. She is bold and daring as a character, but she also has some flaws with entitlement and believing she's better than some of the other crew just because she's the captain's daughter. When her father is sick for a long time her story suddenly begins to change pace and things don't always go quite as she may have believed they would, throwing her into some rather tricky situations.
I enjoyed Althea's story a lot, although she wasn't my favourite, and seeing her grow as a character and develop more skills and knowledge over the book was very pleasing. She's got a way to go still, but her character was one which grew on me more and more as I got to know her more, and she's a very interesting one to watch.

- Paragon - is an old and washed up Liveship whom everyone avoids. He used to be a great Liveship who was proud and happy as any other to serve his family, but something horrible happened and over time he sunk deeper and deeper into madness until he was no longer worth using for fear he would kill the crew he served. He's a sad and forlorn character a lot of the time and he really doesn't have a lot to live for which makes him grumpy and distrustful.
I really enjoyed that fact that the ships themselves had pov's in this and that we got to see things from their view as it gave a new perspective on many of the situations. Paragon is a character whose sections instantly gripped me because he was so different to most things I have read before, and his bitter nature was interesting to follow.

- Vivacia - is the Vestrit's family Liveship and she's the ship that Althea and her father have worked for all of their lives. She begins the story before she's quickened, and so the events that go on on the ship still affect her, but she has no voice herself for any but those she's bonded with. Once she does become quickened she finds that things are not quite as she'd always imagined they would be and there's actually a lot more hardship and terror ahead for her than she would have ever believed that the Vestrit's would put her through.
Vivacia's pov really was great to see, especially as she has the memories of various past Vestrit's within her. She gives us an interesting outlook, one of a newly quickened ship (unlike the Paragon) and she shows us how it is to be born into the life of a Liveship and the toll that this bond can exact upon her.

- Brashen - was Captain Vestrit's (Althea's father's) first Mate and he's a well beloved member of the Vivacia. He's a kind and loyal member of the crew and when he sees things turning sour before him he understands that the best thing to do may be to abandon ship and start afresh. Unfortunately, things are not that simple and he's already entangled in the affairs of the Vestrit's, something which will no doubt continue...
Brashen is a friend to the Paragon, and he's also a good ship mate. He knows his job and does it thoroughly and well, and he's also a man of common sense (most of the time). I really enjoyed seeing him on his journey, and I liked the way that he dealt with some of the more difficult situations he was put into, using his intelligence.

- Kyle Haven - is Althea's brother-in-law and a member of the Vestrit family only by marrying into it. He's a capable sailor and a decent captain, but he's ruthless and only believes in his way. He's always certain that he knows the best way to handle things, and he's unable to see other's points of view even when the evidence of his mistakes are laid bare before him. He's a stubborn and cruel character and whilst he's a little deserving of deference, he's not as deserving of loyalty and love as he first appears.
He was certainly the 'bad-guy' of the book for me and I found him rather detestable at times, however it was a very tense moment whenever he intervened and for that his parts kept me intrigued!!

- Keffria Vestrit - is the wife of Kyle and sister to Althea. She's a woman who loves and admires her husband so much that she's become accustomed to deferring to him and letting him have his own way both with her and her family. She's a kind and conscientious character who only wishes that she could please everyone, but when everything starts to go wrong and she's in the middle of two strong wills she has to begin to stand tall herself and come into her own.
Keffria's character took longer for me to warm to because at first she seemed a little weak and silly, but as the story went on I saw her too grow and become someone I liked a lot and admired for the actions she took.

- Wintrow - is the oldest child and son of Kyle and Keffria. He's a true member of the Vestrit blood whether he wants to be or not and he's been in training to become a Priest of Sa for most of his young life. He believe's strongly in Sa's teachings and the ways of following his God, and he's a soft-natured and gentle young man.
He's the character that I think I was most easily connected to early on because of his genteel nature and the way that he approached difficult situations and always tried to do the 'right' thing. He may not have always handled things in the most efficient and productive ways, but he's a very loyal and careful character and he stays firm to what he believes in no matter what he's subjected to so I admired him immensely for that.

- Ronica Vestrit - is the mother of Althea and Keffria and the Grandmother to Wintrow and Malta. She's a strong-willed character who's handled the affairs of the family for as long as her husband has been sailing the Vivacia and she's very competent at what she does. She's kind and careful and reputation matters greatly to her so she always tries to keep up appearances and do the best thing for her family.
I think she was a character whom I enjoyed a lot as she was tested more because it brought out her more soft and tender side and showed how vulnerable even the head of the family can be. She's always trying to do the thing she sees best for them all and sometimes she gets things wrong or makes mistakes, but I liked her ability to try new approaches when necessary and acknowledge her mistakes.

- Malta - is the daughter and second child of Kyle and Keffria and she's a very spoilt young girl. She wants things to be her way and none other and she follows firmly in her father's way of managing things. She's silly and foolish and makes many grave mistakes over the course of the book but she's also young and naive and doesn't fully understand the results of her actions.
I found her to be one of the most irritating and yet interesting characters and storylines because she made mistake after mistake and refused to bend or apologise even when she was caught out. Her will is as strong as her father's and grandmother's and she tested her family sorely many times.

- Captain Kennit - is the pirate Captain of a ship who desires his own Liveship more than anything. After hearing a prophecy about himself at the start of the book he acts upon what he believes as his right and aims to capture and acquire a Liveship for himself. He's a dark and very cruel man with a skill for manipulation and pain. He desires nothing more than reaching his goals and if he has to be a bloodthirsty Pirate to do so he will, but he's equally a fantastic character whose inner thoughts were great to read.
I enjoyed seeing the development of him as a character and learning more about how he worked and planned out his moves. He's crafty, thinks highly of himself, and he uses all of this to his advantage to achieve his aims. Certainly another one to watch!

So as you can see there's a range and collection of characters who are all very distinct and yet are connected together in various ways. Hobb's development in this book of these characters leads me to believe that the plot of the next two should be a little faster paced and we will begin to learn more of the other elements of the world, but I a, sure there will still be more development and tests ahead for our characters.

Hobb certainly didn't shy away from a more dark and gritty reality in this book. She approaches topic such as slavery and gives great insights into how it would have been to be a slave or slaver and she integrates this into the story in a seamless way, making it a key part of the world and plot. She also manages to involve politics and mystery into the book, making it not only thought-provoking but also tense.

On the whole, my favourite Hobb book by far and I hope to start the next one in this series sometime later this month to see what will happen next. A wonderful story and a slow but fantastic book, 5*s - highly recommended!!
Profile Image for Lema.
192 reviews84 followers
November 14, 2017
Step aside Pirates of The Caribbean, Robin Hobb is the crowned queen of maritime fiction and she's here to stay!
Allow to say that I can't believe I've been putting off starting Robin Hobb's work for the last couple of years just because it's a little bit on the heftier and slow burning side. OH MY GOD I'VE BEEN SUCH AN IDIOT! Well, better late than never and all that rot..
I was thinking about saying that getting to this book was worth the time it took me to read through the Farseer trilogy, but I would be lying. I didn't "go through" that trilogy, I freaking loved it and enjoyed every dragged out second. So getting to Ship of Magic was not only a reward but a continuation of the wonderful journey I started in the Assassin's Apprentice, and it only gets better and better with every book.


First of all, let's be clear that I am not a fan of the sea, I hate ships (urgh just the memory turns my stomach), I don't care for stories with sailors, I do love pirates but maybe once every blue moon I would go out of my way to read a story about them specifically. Well, Robin Hobb just changed my opinion 180 degrees! However, I'll probably still won't think much about them unless those stories were written specifically by her. The atmosphere, the world, the characters, the plot, everything! It's so just immersive so that you feel you are experiencing every setting, feeling and hardship yourself.


Bit of warning, it's not a story about pretty ships and hearty adventures in the wide blue ocean, this novel deals of lot of heavy topics regarding family dynamics, inheritance, subservience to the "man of the family", slavery, free will, sexism, rape and abuse and many more that are so true to our world's issues today.
It's not as flashy as my other favorite fantasy books I've read by Sanderson, Tucker, Gwynne, and others.. Yet it has some of the complexity characteristic of ASIOAF by GRRM, the same darkness I saw in The First Law Trilogy by Abercombie, it's a little quieter and more low key (that's more true of Farseer actually rather than this one) but has the same punches as the best of them.

Why I loved it so much? Why, the Characters of course!
Captain Kennit probably takes the trophy here, a heartless bastard and a pirate to boot who just happened to do the right thing at the right time, reluctantly and out of sheer dumb luck. His conniving and coldness just serve to make him more interesting, and his interaction with everyone around him is always intrigue-guaranteed, and that ending man!

Althea Vestrit is another great character that comes to mind. Spoiled privileged girl who thinks she can do anything because she spent her childhood sailing with her father abroad their family liveship the Vivacia, only to be hit with the cruel reality of life. Her journey and growth were just amazing, she still has a lot to go and I can't wait to see how she'll progress. Speaking of the Vivacia, I've never read about a live ship before, like ever, and that was quite the experience I'll leave it at that!

WINTROW! can I hug that precious child and hide him from the world? Is it blasphemy that I think he's much much more interesting and awesome than Fitz ever was? Boy-priest forced into becoming a sailor by has asshole of a father, his arc has probably one of the best character development I've ever read!

Vivacia and Wintrow by Sephinka

Of course there's a tonload of other great characters that will make you love life or make your skin crawl and then there are a couple that will make you want to bitchslap some sense into them (friggin' Malta that stupid brat!), or just plain smack them into the waiting mouth of a sea-serpent (yes we have those too!!). I was surprise by the strong emotions that Hobb had awakened in me during my read, I won't lie to you it was bloody exhausting! Not to mention all the unsolved mysteries!

OK that's enough rambling on my part, every minute I spend babbeling and gushing here is keeping me away from starting Mad ship, so farewell ye scallywags!
Profile Image for Christina Pilkington.
1,535 reviews163 followers
April 10, 2022
Hands down, this is going to be one of my favorite books of 2022. Although I've heard that books 2 and 3 are even better, so it will probably be the entire series.

Oh. My. Goodness. From the very first chapter I was in love with Hobb's writing. I had read the Farseer Trilogy, so I already knew Hobb could write and deliver a 5 star read.

This book was way beyond 5 stars.

The prose is exquisitely beautiful while never feeling like purple prose or overwriting. Hobb writes in a way that completely sucks you into the world. The characters are so vivid and real. I felt so many emotions while reading: a sense of wonder, hate, dread, unease, and all the warm fuzzies.

Hobb does in one book what many writers cannot complete in an entire trilogy. Some things I saw coming, but many other things were a complete surprise. The world is so rich and detailed, yet there are still so many questions that I can't wait to have answered.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves epic fantasy, well-written and complex characters and detailed world-building. I am SO excited to read Mad Ship this month!
Profile Image for Anna [Bran. San. Stan].
291 reviews125 followers
September 12, 2023
I can barely contain my excitement about what an amazing writer Hobb is. I have a feeling she’ll make my list of favorite fantasy authors. Truth be told, I dreaded having to abandon Fitz, the MC of the previous trilogy, for a new cast of characters, knowing I would miss him terribly. While I still need to know what happens to Fitz next, I am so on board with the Liveship Traders. Honestly, I did not expect to love this book so much. And here I am, mind blown by Hobbs’s writing genius.

At the heart of this second trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings are the eponymous liveships – ships made out of the rare and valuable wizardwood, sentient from the beginning but only awakened after family members of three successive generations have died on board. The Vivacia is such a ship, which but awaits the third and final death to quicken. Althea, Captain Ephron Vestrit’s daughter, mostly raised on the ship and thus sailor at heart, hopes to inherit it after her father’s death but is passed over in favor of her elder sister and her sister’s husband, who now captains the Vivacia, leaving Althea bitter, resentful, and heartbroken.

Althea, however is not the only protagonist. After the Farseer Trilogy and its single viewpoint character, it took some getting used to the plethora of viewpoint characters here. Beyond Althea, there’s Wintrow, Althea’s 13-year-old nephew and priest-in-training; Brashen, a 24-year-old sailor, erstwhile heir of a wealthy Trader family and former first mate on Althea’s father’s ship; and the unscrupulous pirate Captain Kennit. But beyond these four protagonists, minor characters like Keffria (Althea’s sister) and her husband Kyle; Ronica, her mother; or Malta, her daughtertwo liveships are also viewpoint characters.

Of all these characters I expected to dislike Kennit, the cold-hearted pirate with ambitions to become a pirate king, the most, but strangely enough it was Althea – at least in the first half. She seemed selfish and spoiled and I could actually understand why her family made the decision to not pass the ship to her. That’s not to say that Kyle, her brother-in-law and the new captain, endeared himself to me with his behavior and reasoning – on the contrary, he is an ass and a dangerously vindictive one at that –, but Althea had a long way to go. But she did and I’m excited to see where her journey will lead her.

Other characters have also shown themselves in need of personal growth, most notably Wintrow, with his holier-than-thou attitude, who just can’t accept his fate, and Malta, his younger sister, who is beyond spoiled and self-centered. The two of them drove me up the wall.

The only character who didn’t annoy me at some point was Brashen, probably because he has already left his wildest days behind him, which had led to him being disowned by his family. However, at the outset of the book, he has already made his own way and is a capable sailor, which is not to say he doesn’t have some more growing to do, but he seems most grounded in who he is, despite his regrets. And I really SHIP him and Althea. Pun intended.

I am again left to marvel at how brilliantly Hobb creates her characters. They all feel like real people, with all their desires, motivations, flaws, and issues. Just don’t expect to love all of them; like people, they are capable of great shit. So much so that I honestly can’t say I have a favorite character here. I mean I like Captain Kennit the pirate – which probably says a lot about me – and I am rooting for Brashen, Althea and Wintrow. But do I love them like I do Fitz? Nope. And yet I LOVED this book. Goes to show what a brilliant writer Hobb is. I am so hooked and I need to continue with the Mad Ship right away!

Note: This trilogy can be read as a stand-alone if you don’t want to read the Farseer trilogy, the first trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings, for some reason; I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to though. But if this sounds more up your alley, go for it!
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
317 reviews1,343 followers
October 22, 2019
The Liveship Traders is the second trilogy in Robin Hobb's The Realm of the Elderlings saga. After a couple of false starts, I ended up loving The Farseer Trilogy. I adored the tale of The Fitz and the Fool so much that I carried on following their narrative, probably incorrectly as this chronologically is set before those events. I read The Tawny Man trilogy next and I don't imagine that I am the only person who has followed this route. I was then ready to jump straight into the final The Fitz and the Fool trilogy but a top reviewer and friend, Petrik at Novel Notions told me that I'd be missing out on so much if I did. He is one of the only reviewers I truly trust so I took his advice and I haven't been disappointed. It was actually truly interesting reading it in the order I chose. There is one main character from the first trilogy who is featured but under a different guise and we also visit the treasure beach that Fitz frequented with Prince Dutiful. That is one of the handful of times that the trilogies cross over in Ship of Magic.

Being used to the emotionally focused and truly dedicated "warts and all" first-person perspective of Fitz, the way this novel was presented was a major shift. Hobb's writing is as elegant, poignant, and admirable as ever, yet having so much of my heart invested in FitzChivalry it did take a while to get on board (no pun intended) with these
new players.

I analysed that their were three main characters here, however; Hobb presents the events so that we also get the views of the surrounding players also. My favourite character introduced here was Wintrow. If Fitz pulled at your heartstrings I think Wintrow will be a similar emotional burden on your mind for the drama and what fate has in store for him. He was a priest-in-making who was taken away from his monastery and tutors. His grandfather, a famous captain of the Liveship Vivcacia is close to death. Against his oath but forced by the will of his father he is sourced away from the calling of Sa, of which his life is dedicated to. He is needed on Vivacia as he is a blood family relative to the Vesrits. The Liveship, just quickened, should have been passed to Alethea, Wintrow's Aunt, not her sisters husband, Kyle Haven. Kyle is the closest that readers will get to a Prince Regal here. Aletha travelled under her fathers flag from when she was a child and was always told and under the impression that the Livership would become her possession and friend. Her mother, and her father's ailing illness and loss of wit aided to assign the living vessel to probably the worse possible person.

After Aletha and Wintrow, the other main player is Captain Kennit. A dark, charming and handsome pirate that has a Wizardwood charm on his wrist that talks, and he also wants to be the King of all pirates. He also wishes to commandeer a Liveship. He decides to strike a deal with his first mate that that every time they try to take a Liveship they have to free the cargo from a slaver vessel.

Ship of Magic was slow going to begin with. I wanted to see more of Amber but, for very good reasons she was always on the fringes in this entry. That being mentioned, there were some extremely memorable scenes when she conversed with Paragon "The Mad Ship".

As a quick aside, I devoured 25% of this book via audible and I found the narrator excellent. The majority of what is presented here was as brutal as it was unpredictable yet I did predict the ending.

I enjoyed following the majority of the point of view perspectives. Except that of Malta, but I'm sure her character ARC will become truly important. It was written well so I have no issues against Hobb going down that avenue, however; she is presented as a spoilt 12-13 year old brat. The happens here hint that she will have importance with the Rain Wild traders going forwards so I am interested to follow her events.

Next to me right now I have the second novel in this trilogy and also Mark Lawrence's The Girl and the Stars both winking at me saying "read me next." - The fact that I've gone straight on to read The Mad Ship, over Lawrence, one of my favourite author's unreleased book speaks volumes.

The last 50% of this narrative is sublime. I'm not saying that I prefer it yet over The Farseer Trilogy as the Fool and the Fitz have a place in my heart. The ambitious change in style and direction, focusing entirely on an area that has only been briefly mentioned beforehand is a masterclass in itself. I'm not sure how all the pieces of the fantasy puzzle will fit together but I can't wait to endure the adventures, heartache, love, and the also foreboding influence of fate with Fitz, the Fool, Wintrow, Alethea, and Kennit. Also, whoever Hobb throws into the mix in her next few tales. You could start reading Hobb's world here and still have a stunning experience. I'm currently reading to find out every single thing her mind has envisioned throughout this excellent saga.
Profile Image for colleen the convivial curmudgeon.
1,155 reviews296 followers
December 23, 2010

I'm about 75% through with this book, and I'm finding it frustrating.

As others have said, it's very much a character-based book, and I can dig character-based books if I like the characters, but I'm having a hard time really latching onto anyone that I don't want to smack upside the head.

Actually, no, I do like some characters (Brashen and Paragon, for instance) - but the ones I do like we don't seem to spend enough time with, while we spend far too much time with the likes of Kyle and Malta.

And I have a love-hate relationship with the shifting perspectives. When I'm slogging through a particularlty annoying or slow perspective, I'm grateful for its end, but there are other times when things are finally get interesting, only for the action to then cut-away from what's going on, and I have to wait 150 more pages to get back to what I was interested in. (And then, when we do get back to it, often time has passed, and so we're not taken back to the moment that had captured me anyway.)

So far, I've been reading this book for 9 days. That's a long time for me to take on one book. Part of the problem is that I'm just not really motivated to pick it up. I'm not attached enough to the characters to long for the time when I can pick the book back up, and, sometimes, I even find myself putting it off during my daily allotted reading time.

But I don't hate it. Thus far, I would probably rate it 2 stars. And I guess that's what's so frustrating, because I think I could like it more, like it could almost be a book I loved, but it's just not. *shrugs*



So I finally finished. I was promised some actual character development by the end, and it did happen, of a sort. Also, some stuff came together and there was actually some action. Yay! I wish that the events hadn't been quite so predictable, but at least the last 100 pages or so moved at a better pace.

I know do feel the need to continue, when, before, it was more of a "I suppose I must", but a lot of this is because nothing gets resolved in this book. It's definitely not a stand alone.

Anyway, even though I feel slightly more favorable to the book than I did above, I still feel like it could've been chopped down, a lot of the character set-up was repetitious and tedious, and I can easily see how some scenes could've been combined.

I'm still not sure I like any of the more major players, though.

Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews927 followers
March 4, 2023
“What you are born to be, you will be, whether it be priest or sailor. So step up and be it. Let them do nothing to you. Be the one who shapes yourself. Be who you are..."

REVIEW: Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb - Grimdark Magazine

I'd heard a lot of praise about Robin Hobb's Ship of Magic: Liveship Traders #1 and the series. Admittedly, it started really slowly for me. While still finding Hobbs' writing really good, I just wasn't into it. The book felt like it was preparing me for better and more interesting things to come. By the end, however, I couldn't wait to read the next installment. I'm not sure if anything changed. Would I enjoy Ship of Magic more if I reread it with the knowledge I have of how characters, in the face of their world's upheaval, will develop? 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Elena.
124 reviews996 followers
September 19, 2018
Leer a Robin Hobb requiere paciencia. Es una autora que te pide tiempo para que le permitas presentarte a los personajes de sus historias y a los mundos que crea. Sus tramas son lentas, se cuecen poco a poco...pero ay, ¡compensa tanto! Sus personajes acaban pareciendo reales, creíbles y te mete tan de lleno en sus historias cuidando tanto hasta el mínimo detalle que son una auténtica gozada.
En esta ocasión (y al contrario que en su anterior trilogía) la autora nos presenta múltiples puntos de vista. Me ha encantado conocer a la família Vestrit, al pirata Kennit, a las naves redivivas y he disfrutado mucho de los politiqueos y dramas que transcurren en su segunda trilogía de su gran saga "El Reino de los Vetulus" (The Realm of the Elderlings). Estaba algo preocupada porque no estoy muy acostumbrada a historias navales pero me lo he pasado genial. Volveré pronto al Mitonar porque no creo que pueda esperar demasiado sin saber qué destino les depara a todos los personajes.
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
679 reviews619 followers
November 1, 2019
The man who worries about what will next be happening to him loses this moment in dread of the next, and poisons the next with pre-judgement.

If there was ever a book that exceeded my expectations due to its uniqueness its this book, this book is one of those books you didn't know you needed till you read it. There is a praise by The Times written on the cover of this book As addictive as morphine, and I couldn't agree more.

I know its wrong to compare but I just cannot help myself, this book is a thousand times better than the Farseer trilogy in all angle. There isn't much action or magic in this book, what this book has is great well written characters and plot.

Just like all Hobb's book the writing is to die for, its so addictive, this book is written in third person multiple POV which is my favourite, I get to know what the characters are thinking. The characters in this book are all selfish with ulterior motives, there isn't a single character in this book that is selfless but I still adore them, my favourite been Kennit, I just can't help myself. Althea isn't all bad but she is such a spoilt brat and Wintrow is way too self righteous. Malta is just the worst, I just want to enter the book and hit her upside her head.
The world building as always blew my mind, the depiction is just so explicit, herebis one of my favourite

Sorcor, as always, was dressed in a wide array of fine clothes in colours that bedazzled the eye. The silk scarf that belted his waist had come from the plump, pale shoulders of a noblewoman they had ransomed. The jewelled dagger stuck in it had come from her son, a brave boy who had not known when to surrender. He’d had the yellow silk shirt tailored in Chalced. Given the bulkiness of the man’s muscled shoulders and thick chest, the wide expanse of fluttering fabric reminded Kennit of a ship under sail.

This book is about a Bingtown trader family, a pirate and his crew, Brashen a disgraced trader family's son, Amber and some Liveships.
Ephron Vestrit is the head of the Vestrit family, his wife is Ronica, they have two daughters Keffria and Althea, Keffria is married to Kyle Haven and together they have three children, Wintrow and Malta are the only ones that have POV in the book. The family own a Liveship. A Liveship is a sentient ship that can come to life after three family members die aboard it.

Kennit is the pirate, he is cold, heartless man and his dream is to become the king of the pirate and own a Liveship even though everyone knows a Liveship will only sail for its family members.

Brashen and Amber are sort of wild cards cause I don't know how their story will become one with the initial plot. The more wilder cards is the narrative of sea serpents, I have no idea how that is related to the plot, can't wait to figure it out.

The Liveship are awesome, just two has a POV in this book and their thought is just so touching, Paragon is a sad and crazy ship while Vivacia is a young and inexperienced ship.
Ophelia is the third Liveship featured in this book and I love her, she is curious loves to gossip and meddle in people's lives.

Finally the addition of slavery in this book, I love the way the author depicted the inhumane confinement of the slaves, you have to be heartless not to feel how wrong it is.
Profile Image for Kaora.
585 reviews282 followers
April 4, 2015
I was a huge fan of Robin Hobb ever since I read her story Homecoming in Epic.

And while I loved her Farseer series, this has surpassed those as my favorite books.

Vivacia is a liveship, a boat made of wizardwood, that after three deaths of family members on board comes to life. Liveships are the only ships that can make the journey up the river to the Rain Wilds in order to do trade, and are extremely valuable.

This book follows several points of view, including a pirate named Kennit, Althea the daughter of the last sailor to die aboard Vivacia, her sister Keffria, her nephew Winthrow, and various others. Some I loved, some I hated.

I also really enjoyed the addition to the world she has created in Farseer. While some of the places in the Farseer trilogy are mentioned, this takes place in a different area, and I was fascinated by the magic and depth of this world she has created.

To get some perspective, this is an almost 900 page book that I finished in about 5 days. All other books were placed on the backburner to be picked up at a later date, because I could not put this one down.

I quickly became invested in the characters, and love watching as events shape their lives and personalities in a very believable way. Even characters I hate with a passion can become favorites in the span of a few pages.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Maisha  Farzana .
555 reviews238 followers
April 24, 2023
“One must plan for the future and anticipate the future without fearing the future.”

“As long as you believe it is impossible, you close your mind to understanding it.”

Pirates, talking ships, magic, mythical creatures, wonderful characterization and a brilliantly plotted storyline - "Ship of Magic" is a slow paced character-driven story that blew my mind away. I, now, sincerely regret my decision of giving up on this author earlier in 2021. However, I am enthusiastically back to complete what I started. Muhahaha, "The Realm of the Elderlings", the game is on.....

You don't need to read to the Farseer trilogy beforehand to enjoy Liveship Traders trilogy. In fact I would suggest to read this one first.

"Assassin's Apprentice" was the first adult high fantasy book I read - an act I'm not proud of. This definitely is not the place to start you should start your Fantasy journey from. I made a mistake. I enjoyed the first book of the Farseer trilogy. Then tried to read second one but had to dnf it in midway. I couldn't encourage myself to continue. The writing, I found, monotonous and boring (The writing of the Liveship Traders trilogy is lot better). I loved Fitz but the story as whole, was a let down for me. Then I actually gave up on the author and had no plans to read this trilogy. But of course -YouTube. BookTube and the booktubers' obsession with Hobb made me come back to give this author another try and it was a huge success, to say the least. This book is incredible. I can already predict that this particular trilogy is going to be much more epic and amazing than the Farseer. I am proud of myself for giving it a go. This huge chunk having 900 pages was worth it....

The first and most interesting thing I noticed while reading this book was the writing style. The writing of this one is completely different from the previous trilogy set in the Realm of the Elderlings. To be honest, this book (in extension the Liveship Traders trilogy) has zero similarities with the Farseer trilogy.

“It is the nature of humans that we tend to pass our pain along. As if we could get rid of it by inflicting an equal hurt on someone else.”

I have always found Hobb's writing style profoundly intimate and effective. It falls into the category of descriptive narration. She uses less dialogues and lot more descriptions in the stories she tells. Info dumping is also a common thing to find. I usually don't like this kind of writing style. But for some reason, I really really enjoy Hobb's writing. The prose is exquisite. Robin Hobb has a wondrous way to explore complex emotions and internal struggles of the characters. However, the writing may seem a little boring to some. Though, I personally enjoy her penmanship, I don't think it would be enjoyable out there. Specially, if you're a fan of fast paced writing and action paced fantasy, Robin Hobb is not the perfect author for you.

As I have already mentioned before, the pacing is very slow. It takes quite long to get into the main story. Robin Hobb does everything in detail. The half of the book is a little hazy, it takes a while to uncurtain the actual plot. But the characters will keep the readers engaged and entertained. So, the slow moving story wasn't a issue for me.

The world building is amazing with a capital A. There is magic. There is mythical magical creatures like Sea Serpents. There is also some kind of secret magical society, we don't know almost nothing about. The plot is heavy with political intrigue. The book also focuses on the history of this new world and its mythologies.

“What you are born to be, you will be, whether it be priest or sailor. So step up and be it. Let them do nothing to you. Be the one who shapes yourself.”

Now, let's talk about the characterization. We all, more or less know that Robin Hobb excels in her characterization. She is her own match. This book is not difficult to the statement. But unlike the Farseer, the Liveship Traders focuses on several characters throughout the story. "Ship of Magic" contains multiple povs. There are tons of characters, lots of narrators. But having so many characters never felt like a burden. I could easily identify them as individuals. All of them are well written and well developed - play their given roles perfects. The voices of these characters are distinct and unique. Say protagonists or antagonists - everyone shine in this book with full glory. I loved the nice ones with devotion and wanted to murder the bad ones with determination. What do you need more if you get a marvellous cast of characters.

There is a distinctly nautical feel to the Liveship Traders but it is not important for you to have a passion for the sea as the story could be based on land, sea or air, it really wouldn’t matter. It's magical. Not only there is magic in the book, the story itself is bound to cast a spell on the readers that would be hard to break. So much happen within these 900 pages!! I am fascinated with the world. I'm in love with characters. I'm in awe at how different it was from the prior trilogy. No offense to Farseer lovers but this book surpasses its predecessor; at least I think so.

This book is simply gorgeous in every single way it's possible to be. It's astonishing how I finished 900 pages long book in just 4 days....

So don't let the size intimidate you.


Whenever I open YouTube, I see each and every booktuber taking about The Realm of Elderlings and Robin Hobb. And I feel like sh*t for abandoning the series after the first 2 books.

My brains screams..*Give it another go*
Then, reality check..*This book alone is 880 pages long*

Edit 10/2/2022:

(Currently Reading)

I have gone Mad....💀💀💀
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,100 followers
July 5, 2016
It started slow for me until I realized that nothing much was going to happen until the extended family all had their say.

That being said, the plot started weaving and the world started blooming. So many bad things started happening to everyone so slowly that I wondered if I, too, was slowly being boiled alive.

That's the effect this novel had on me. It's very long, and its very detailed. If you like immersive fantasy and especially nautical fantasy, then you'll love this.

Edit 7/5/16

Looking back after years and having read the full trilogy plus a third trilogy after this one, I'm a bit more forgiving of the novel. The final interesting events, the redemption and restoration of the mad ship, the tragedy of the main family, and all the proto-dragons, the leviathans, and the wilds, makes me think much more fondly on the whole storyline. :)
Profile Image for Mpauli.
157 reviews464 followers
August 21, 2015
A very, very character-driven book. It reads almost like a classical family drama ala The Buddenbrocks. Despite the plot being rather on the back-burner I pretty much enjoyed all the characters and their development.
Maybe not a book for everyone, due to its slow pace but I really enjoyed it, which was surprising, cause I normally prefer plot heavy books.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,456 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.