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Ship of Magic: The Liveship Traders [Mass Market Paperback]

Robin Hobb
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 2 1999 Liveship Traders Trilogy (Book 1)
Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships—rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. Now the fortunes of one of Bingtown’s oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia.
For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy. For Althea’s young nephew, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard the ship, the Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the ship—and the Vestrits—may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider: the ruthless buccaneer captain Kennit, who plans to seize power over the Pirate Isles by capturing a liveship and bending it to his will.
Praise for Robin Hobb and the Liveship Traders Trilogy
“Fantasy as it ought to be written . . . Robin Hobb’s books are diamonds in a sea of zircons.”—George R. R. Martin
“A truly extraordinary saga . . . The characterizations are consistently superb, and [Hobb] animates everything with love for and knowledge of the sea.”Booklist
“A major work of high fantasy, reading like a cross between Tolkien and Patrick O’Brian . . . one of the finest fantasy sagas to bridge the millennium.”Publishers Weekly
“Rich, complex . . . [Hobb’s] plotting is complex but tightly controlled, and her descriptive powers match her excellent visual imagination. But her chief virtue is that she delineates character extremely well.”Interzone

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Ship of Magic: The Liveship Traders + Ship of Destiny: The Liveship Traders + Mad Ship: The Liveship Traders
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From Amazon

Robin Hobb, author of the Farseer trilogy, has returned to that world for a new series. Ship of Magic is a sea tale, reminiscent of Moby Dick and Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series in its details of shipboard life. It is also a fantasy adventure with sea serpents, pirates, and all sorts of magic. The liveships have distinct personalities and partner with specific people, somewhat like Anne McCaffrey's Brain ships and their Brawns, though these are trading ships and have full crews.

Hobb has peopled the book with many wonderfully developed characters. Most of the primary ones are members of the Vestritts, an Old Trader family which owns the liveship Vivacia. Their stories are intercut with those of Kennit, the ambitious pirate Brashen, the disinherited scion of another family who served on the Vestritt's ship, and Paragon, an old liveship abandoned and believed mad. The sentient sea serpents have their own story hinted at, as well.

Though Ship of Magic is full of action, none of the plotlines get resolved in this book. Readers who resent being left with many questions and few answers after almost 700 pages should think twice before starting, or wait until the rest of the series is out so that their suspense won't be too prolonged. But Hobb's writing draws you in and makes you care desperately about what will happen next, the mark of a terrific storyteller. --Nona Vero --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

The untimely death of Old Trader Ephron Vestrit deprives his daughter Althea of her inheritance and places her ambitious brother-in-law Kyle in command of the live ship Viveca and the family fortunes. The author of the Farseer trilogy (Assassin's Apprentice, LJ 3/15/95; Royal Assassin, Bantam, 1996; Assassin's Quest, Bantam, 1997) launches a new series set in a world of sentient ships, merchant traders, ruthless pirates, dangerous treasures, seagoing dragons, and a mysterious elder race. Hobb excels in depicting complex characters; even her villains command respect, if not sympathy, for their actions. Most libraries should purchase this exotic, nonstandard fantasy.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Works on Many Levels. June 27 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Perhaps, by now, you've read this time and time again. Hobb's characterization is superb. Fitz is a timeless character, and one that will forever shadow the rest of Hobb's work. In that respect I won't flog the point to you. Hobb's characterization is amazing. That's all I need to say for the rest of my review.

Mayn people count the two trilogies involving Fitz as their favourite, with this being a close third. I personally thing that this is her best trilogy so far. There are a few reasons for this.

1. Hobb brings her strong characterization to a variety of viewpoints. Where Tawny Man/Farseer deals with Fitz only, Liveship Traders has a rich set of characters, all with their own story. While this means you don't get to know any one character as well as you get to know Fitz, it means that there are so many plot lines that you love. You care about every aspect of the story, with no plot line completely winning your attention. Even the 'serpent' viewpoint, which I would argue is the weakest (which is to say that it is slightly less interesting than the rest), revels in the mystery it contains. Who are these creatures and what do they have to do with the plot? Also, Hobb keeps these ones short, to give you a taste, then moves onto a juicier plotline. Kennit starts out as a figure that you revile, but Hobb quickly takes his flaws and paints them against a jaw-dropping canvas of humanism, so that you can't help but sympathesize with him.

2. The world building in this novel is superior to that of Farseer and Tawny Man. Of course, this may have been Hobb's intention, but there it is nonetheless.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Flawless fantasy July 19 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Robin Hobb has managed to achieve the impossible with her Liveship Traders trilogy. In a genre that so often uses the same themes and ideas, Ms Hobb has produced an original work.
The Liveships of the title are very expensive and rare ships built from the mysterious wizardwood only found in the Rain River Wilds. After 3 generations of the owner's family have died on board, the wizardwood 'quickens' and the ships become living, sentient beings.
Throughout the book, the author interweaves the story of the Liveship traders, the story of the sea serpents who are driven by an instinct to search for their 'beginnings' and the tale of Kennick, a ruthless man determined to be King of the Pirates.
Ms Hobbs shows an extraordinary talent for characterisation. There are no totally black or white characters in her stories but realistic characters who have their good sides and their faults in abundance. At times the reader will feel antipathy toward the heroine and at others empathy for the 'bad guy'.
This is a book that you will find difficult to put down. Highly recommended
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This is hard to write mostly because I had such high hopes for this book. Many reviews were wonderful. And, goodness knows Hobb's Assassin trilogy predecessors were worth a full five stars each. This first book in the Liveship Traders series just did not click so-to-speak. Maybe it was the hundred or so pages of waiting for a character's death (a character I honestly liked that plays no part other than dying) that starts the book that turned me off (don't worry, I'm not giving away anything important here, not a spoiler).
The character development is good in that all characters are all self motivated. However, many of the characters are not enjoyable to read about which at times makes the book seem very long indeed.
Clearly Hobb wants us to embrace Althea (our heroine), Brashen, Wintrow, and of course Vivacia herself. I like Althea. Really I do, but she just doesn't keep me interested (insert here: like Fitz Chivalry Farseer did). Brashen is interesting and I think I'll like him more in the next book. Vivacia is wonderful to read about. I wish Wintrow would just go away. Here is a problem since so many chapters revolve around him and I really could care less about him and his complete inability to be what he needs to be.
On the other hand not all of our villains are all that bad (again, true self-motivation and believable characterization - Hobb's strength). Kyle Haven is such an ass. Ok, he's trying to do what he believes is right ... but he can't see the forest for the trees. Kennit is respected by many but such a complete idiot - I hope Hobb kills him off soon. Kennit's [prostitue] however is so engaging that I hope she becomes a major character in the series. Of all the characters, she has the most potential. Malta ...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hobb rules the waves! Feb. 8 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Can fantasy get any better than this? I don't think so. Robin Hobb is one of the best writers out there and she vastly proves it in this trilogy. The idea of mixing seafaring high adventure (pirates included!) and fantasy is just another example of Hobb's mastership. The setting is spectacular: the world is, in general, ample terms, that of the Farseer trilogy; but while this latter's story is set in a medieval-like group of kingdoms and fiefdoms, the Liveship Traders trilogy is set far to the east of these, in the lands controlled by the city-metropolis of Jamaillia. This city is a kind of Byzantium or Rome, an ancient, sophisticated metropolis with a very complicated (and corrupt) political system, and several very rich colonies-satellites. Bingtown, where the main characters of the story come from, is one of these colonies and its commercial elite has survived the harshness of the dangerous setting by sheer strength, sharpness and will power...and by an extremely accute sense of honour that has always made them be true to their word and pay their debts (in "gold or blood"). This pride in their sense of honour has allowed them to keep strong links with their metropolis, while trading in the most precious and costly of merchandise, a merchandise that hides a well-kept secret that has made them rich but for which a terrible price has had to be paid. The moral issues arise from the conflicts that the characters have to face in their changing and corrupt society, but the author is too good to hit us with these issues on the head -as so many fantasy authors do nowadays. And this is what is really glorious about the author: she manages to present her themes without writing an overly simple pamphlet about what is right and wrong. Because in times of change, they are not so easy to see.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Abysmal!!!!!!
This book was the least satisfying I have read in a long, long time. It disappointed me in just about every way: the characters were dull and static, the plot - although often... Read more
Published on Dec 3 2010 by Hannah Sherlock
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep it up!
Excellent work of fantasy. Exciting and engaging. A must read. Just put it down and wow!
**A book I would also recommend is The Unsuspecting Mage by Brian S. Pratt. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2006 by Jerry
4.0 out of 5 stars Ugh! More! Now!
Never have I been as frustrated with a book, which I suppose is a testament to its quality. If it sucked, I couldn't care less what happened next, right? Read more
Published on June 20 2004 by Michael J. Vuolo
5.0 out of 5 stars Something original
It is a little difficult to come up with something original in the Fantasy genre, I think, at the moment. Most of the themes have been done over and over. Read more
Published on June 11 2004 by Doc
5.0 out of 5 stars Great books!
If you like your characters to have depth, reasons for what they do and to be like real people, no one's pure evil and no one's pure good, then these are for you. Read more
Published on May 20 2004 by "a_nemi"
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it, enjoy her other novels as well.
I was reading another fantasy novel that just had to be put down! I then picked up this novel, after having recently read her excellent 'Assassin' series. Read more
Published on April 24 2004 by Daffydd
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting new fantasy
Sea serpents, pirates, sailing ships that are alive, a feisty female heroine who is bereft of her rightful inheritance by a cold, calculating brother-in-law, a young priest torn... Read more
Published on March 8 2004 by Anna Stanford
3.0 out of 5 stars Not on Par With the Farseer Saga
The first book of this series didn't grab me like her Farseer trilogy did. I will read the next one, but did anyone else get the feeling that Hobb really doesn't like her... Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by Dan Dean
1.0 out of 5 stars what a perfectly awful book!
whiny, uninteresting characters. I was hoping for a lot. Great cover art, great blurb, simply amazing plot idea. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2004
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