Saturday, 25 June 2011 / No comments

The Liveship Traders Trilogy - Robin Hobb

So over the last few weeks I was mostly reading exam papers. It's my second year marking and I swore after last year I wouldn't do it again, but when the contract arrived in January the money was very tempting and so I decided to do it. I have now sworn I won't do it again next year, it's a horrible task and I don't get to see my family for three weeks (let alone do anything else), but we'll see how handy the money seems in January when the next contract arrives :)

I've also been reading information about colycystectomy (I think I've spelt that right!) as I had my gall bladder out on Tuesday. I'm a bit sore and tender but generally recovering well. I'm looking forward to not having random attacks of biliary colic at all hours of the day and night.

So, other than all that I have of course been reading. I've read The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb.

I had high expectations, I really enjoyed the Farseer Trilogy and I'd been told by a few people that this was even better. Read on after the jump to see what I thought.

This trilogy is set in Bingtown, which is south of The Six Duchies, and the surrounding areas. The Bingtown Traders jealously guard their status and the secrets of the Rain Wild River goods they are famous for trading. They resent the rising taxers imposed on them by the Satrap, ruler of Jamalia, and the arrival of the New Traders who come bearing land grands and claiming votes on the traders' council. The New Traders also bring with them slavery, which has always been banned in Bingtown.

With these simmering tensions in the background, we're introduced to the main players. The mysterious serpents who are searching for something lost, the pirate Kennit with ambitions to be a king, trainee priest Wintrow, who wants nothing more than to be left to serve Sa, Althea Vestrit, Trader's daughter and the liveship she loves, Vivacia. Then we have the mysterious Amber (it only took me half a book to work out Amber's identity! And I loved what she did with Paragon's face).

Liveships are what the Bingtown Traders are most known for. Made of the mysterious Wizardwood, the origins of which are a closely guarded secret known only by the Rain Wild Traders, liveships quicken and come to life after three generations of a family have served and died on their decks. They form a bond with their family members and will sail only for them, outperforming and outrunning any regular ship.

There is a lot of sailing in these books, which I was a bit worried about as I'm not particularly into nautical fiction. However, Hobb handles these scenes beautifully and the descriptions are colourful enough without bogging the reader down in unnecessary details.

Across the three books the characters develop and change a lot, and none end up where they imagine they will at the beginning of the story. Malta in particular is a character who undergoes an amazing transformation. I couldn't stand her in the beginning, but had a definite soft spot for her at the end.

There are a lot of different threads running through these books and it's not always clear how they're related, but in the climax Hobb manages to weave them together seamlessly, making sure all the key players are where they need to be.

I would love to discuss the plot in detail, but if you haven't read it, I don't want to give it away. I really enjoyed the series and hope that some of the characters surface again. Go and read these books right now, but read the Farseer Trilogy first, or you'll miss some beautifully subtle references.
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