Thursday, 4 October 2001

Robin Hobb: Ship of Destiny (2000)

Edition: Voyager, 2000
Review number: 953

In the final volume in her extremely lengthy Liveship Traders trilogy, Hobb knits the complex threads of her narrative back together in a skilful and exciting way, even if some questions remain unanswered (notably that of why the success of pirates in attacking slave ships should coincide with agitation among the sea serpents, which are the events that motivate the entire trilogy).

Like the second book, The Mad Ship, Ship of Destiny contains few surprises; the major new element is the discovery of the origins of pirate leader Kennit. Most of the story concerns the four sided war between the satrapy of Jamailla, its virtually independent colony at Bingtown which is the home port of the live ships, the slavers of Chalced and the pirates. Much of the action takes place at sea, and it is clear that a major motivation of the novel is a desire to replicate something of the atmosphere of the novels about the eighteenth century British navy by writers like C.S. Forester and Patrick O'Brien in a fantasy context. Ship of Destiny succeeds best in reaching this aim, but it still for me falls somewhat short. The descriptions don't make me feel that Hobb has the feel for the details that Forester and O'Brien had.

As a trilogy, The Liveship Traders is less successful than Hobb's first, the Farseer series. It is less brutal, and has fewer surprises, and its second novel is a let down. Ship of Destiny provides an interesting ending, and there is much to enjoy here, but Hobb has proved already that she can do better.

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