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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2002
This book, which is the second instalment of Robin Hobb's fabulous trilogy, 'The Liveship Traders' sees several major developments in both character and story. This instalment is definitely darker than the first and those of you familiar with Hobb's Farseer Trilogy will begin to recognise her ability to make it seem as if all of her characters actions and fortunes are decided by fate, and that they all have a destiny to fulfil.
As this novel progresses it all begins to look distinctively bleak for the Vestrit trader family. In the first book, "Ship of Magic", their liveship Vivacia was captured by the pirate king Kennit. As their family fortunes are tied up in this ship it is imperative that they retrieve her. But does she want to be reclaimed or is the pirate life all that she ever dreamed of?
Meanwhile, the Vestrits themselves are struggling not to be drawn ever deeper into poverty. As their funds begin to dwindle and all that can be sold is, they begin to consider the ultimate form of payment for their ship, the hand of their youngest family member Malta in marriage to the son of the trader family to whom they must continue to pay for Vivacia.
While all of this is going on in the foreground of the novel, in the background the reclusive Amber is living in the captain's cabin of the beached liveship Paragon. While all others in Bingtown fear the mad ship that 'turtled', killing his entire crew, Amber looks forward to the day when she will make him sail once again.
Amongst all of this, the tale of the serpents that seemed totally separate from the events in the last novel slowly becomes clear, and their importance and relationship to everyone and everything else in the novel is established.
All in all, this is an astounding book. Robin Hobb writes so astonishingly well that you cannot help but be transfixed by every written word in this novel.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2005
The transition from 'Ship of Magic' to 'The Mad Ship' is as smooth as silk, even the exposition for readers who've been away from the trilogy for a while (are there such people?!) is interlaced with the new material, so that you barely notice the subtle recounting of all that came before. The consistancy of this author is almost obsessional, but I wouldn't have it any other way! Once again the various character stories are woven seamlessly and somtimes in a way that leaves a massive number of pages between a cliffhanger-character moment and finding out just what happens next- the anticipation-reading is off the scale!!
Contrary to the title though, this is not Paragon's story- the myriad sets of characters once again vie for the reader's attention and never does one group hog the limelight- always it is an ensemble piece, which I've discovered is just as attention-grabbing as stories that opt for a main character alone. Despite these continued unique perspectives though, I was slightly dissappointed Paragon was not given more in this book. I personally find the character fascinating and felt somewhat cheated that many of the aspects of this character, demons that so obviously bubble just under the surface, were not hinted at more. But doubtless I will get to know everything and more in the final installment of the trilgy- 'Ship of Destiny', which I'm now itching to read after just finishing this tremendous tale!
If you havn't already, I hope this review immediately stirs in you the need to pick up 'The Mad Ship' without delay, because book 2 in the liveship saga does not disappoint. The best compliment I can give this book is that it's an effortlessly enjoyable read, while at the same time not ashamed to tackle bigger philosohpical, religious and moral issues. Simply superb.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 11 May 2000
Having read the Farseer Trilogy and Ship of Magic, I was looking forward to this book but never had gotten around to picking it up until I borrowed it off a friend last week. He told me that he hadn't like it, and had only gotten halfway through.
I'm going to have to ask him how this is possible. I was engrossed by the characters and the plot and it's been a long time since I read a book as entertaining as this one. The revelations on Liveships, sea-serpents, dragons and the Others were astounding, so I will reveal no more than that the "dragons" in the Farseer Trilogy were not dragons at all. They are mentioned briefly towards the end, more to explain how they fit in with the true dragons, but the book concerns itself more with philosophical questions about whether the means can justify the ends and the nature of slavery, even when it's only memories that are held slave.
The Rain Wilds Traders and the Jamailan Satrapy are dealt with in greater detail than previously, and the interactions between the Old and New Traders are a wonderful study, but the interacions between serpents, dragons, Liveships, Bingtown Traders and Rain Wilds Traders are the focus of the book.
If you're a fan of high fantasy, read this and you won't be disappointed. I have to get the next one now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 31 October 2003
If, like myself you enjoyed the first book you won't be dissappointed with this installment. The books are so consistant that you'll forget that they are two separate books. Again the story is split into individual pieces for each character, told from their point of view and again some interact. The only problem with having so many main characters is that if you have a favourite then reading large sections of the book without them being mentioned is frustrating. I refer to (in my view) the brilliant 'King Kennit' but the same applies for all the characters.
The book spilits into three threads: Kennit, Wintrow, Etta and Vivacia: Malta and Reyn: and Brashen, Althea and Amber with the serpents and a modicum of other chracters making up the rest.
Some parts of the book are not great and i feel go on a little, usually (but not always!) concerning Ronica and Keriffia and the complecated politics which is a neccessary evil for the book to have structure. But these pieces are few and far between and the majority of the book is dedicated to an exiting or gripping event or excellent dialouge.
The new things to this segment apart from the story becoming broader yet more clearer as we begin to see what precise roles each person has, are the new characters: The Satrap and his companions. Other people suchh as Reyn are given more time in the book and with this come Malta, his family ,the rain wild area and a good suprise!.
Apart from the view minor problems, this book is an excellent and clever read with great twists and i truely reccomend it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2000
This may well be the best ongoing work of fantasy being written. A strong statement, perhaps, but one I believe is easily supported by the literate quality of writing, the depth of both the characterization and world she has created, the complexity of her plot development, and the originality of both her world and the elements of fantasy and and the magic underpinning it. In terms of the latter, it is refreshingly difficult to perceive any borrowings stemming from her predecessors, and her treatment of dragons is so far the only example I have discovered that is not either childish, overly drawn from earlier and worn stereotypes, or lacking credible treatment. In terms of the former, Robin Hobb is one of only a few fantasy authors who can truly write well. This is a series that should grace the shelves of any serious reader of fantasy, and rises far above the simple, run of the mill fare we so often encounter, with their characters and magical elements rarely ascending above the conventional or the borrowed.
I feel this is the strongest volume of the series (I have obtained and read the concluding novel). In terms of the interweaving of the multiple plot lines, "Mad Ship" closes much that was left unresolved in "Ship of Magic," and propels the plot along at a much brisker pace, successfully setting up anticipation for the final resolution to come in "Ship of Destiny." It seems to me more tightly written, both in terms of character development and story line. This work, as well as its companion volumes, deserve to grace the shelves of any serious reader of fantasy, and much more attention than is evident in the number of responses found here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2011
Although I enjoyed the Farseer and Tawny man trilogies a lot more, I still find it very hard to put this series down!

Compelling characters and a wonderful world, so clear you could be standing right there alongside the characters.

Hobb's style is one that I adore, and her books rarely disappoint. I'm so happy to be able to read her work!

In this book we follow a lot of characters, more than you would usually find in a book. They are spread out across the world, occasionally interlocking. But unlike some other books I've read with a lot of characters, it never gets complicated or boring. It also doesn't feel like she has just added in characters and stories just to fill the gaps. Everything is important and works together beautifully.

We follow Althea and she, Brashen and Amber relaunch Paragon. Malta as she deals with becoming a women, her presentation to society and the disasters that befall her as her mind is filled with thoughts of a dragon. Kennit, Etta and Wintrow in their strange voyage where you are never sure who loves or hates who or indeed what they will do next. So many wonderful, interlocking stories each as interesting as the last!

As you may have guessed, I'm a big Hobb fan, and only she could manage to turn something, ships, that I usually can't stand and find rather boring, into something magical, original and compelling. Liveships themselves are one of the greatest fantasy creations in a long time and I salute Hobb for devising them! thank you!

My favourite character in this book is probably Paragon, the mad ship. He is positively delightful! He goes from raging mad one minute to adorablely childish the next, always an amusing character but with a sad past that I desperately want to know more about. And you can't have Paragon without the wonderful Amber, a familiar character for readers of previous books, even if you don't realise it! I can't wait to read the next in the series to find out what happens!

Well worth a read! I think that the first in the series (Ship of Magic) was perhaps a little slow, but this book picks up the pace and had me utterly gripped! Please, read and enjoy this book to the fullest extent!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The second instalment of Robin Hobbs peerless Liveship Traders trilogy moves the narrative on ( Rather obviously, it would,nt be much of a book otherwise) but develops unexpected plot points and characters only given brief cameo,s in "Ship Of Magic". Other characters given major roles in that book are afforded only cursory ones, here yet it all feels like it,s whipping up nicely for the final book -"Ship Of Destiny".
As ever with Robin Hobb the characterisation is spot on and some of the characters undergo fundamental shifts in their persona as the story evolves. The Vestrit family,s relationship with the Rain Wild Traders in explored more explicitly with the precocious spoilt Malta taking on a more pivotal role and attaining a budding maturity. Althea and Brashen are brought back together by the enigmatic Amber in their pursuit to re-capture the liveship Vivacia and it,s here that the disgraced blind liveship Paragon has a major role to play.
Pirate Kennit meanwhile struggles to come to terms with the loss of his leg both mentally and physically and it,s here that the former priest advocate and son of former Captain of the liveship Vivacia , Kyle Haven , Wintrow becomes part of a wider conspiracy also involving Kennits woman Etta. Haven meanwhile , a major character in the first book , is given short shrift in The Mad Ship.
The Satrap, an indulgent haughty individual is the ruler of Jamillia and has thus far in the story only been hinted at but in book two becomes a pivotal character with the employment of Chalcedean ships to stave off the pirates attacking slave ships. And the story further elucidates the reader with the relationship between the sea serpents and the dragon that plagues Malta,s dreams and we also learn more about the mysterious Others.
As is usual with Robin Hobb the book is beautifully written , the characters drawn so vividly that you actually care about what happens to them and like The Tawny Man series it all feels likes its heading for an emotional and exciting climax.The Mad Ship is not just a bridge between one book to another it,s a brilliant book in it,s own right. You would be mad to miss out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 October 2003
If, like myself you enjoyed the first book you won't be dissappointed with this installment. The books are so consistant that you'll forget that they are two separate books. Again the story is split into individual pieces for each character, told from their point of view and again some interact. The only problem with having so many main characters is that if you have a favourite then reading large sections of the book without them being mentioned is frustrating. I refer to (in my view) the brilliant 'King Kennit' but the same applies for all the characters.
The book spilits into three threads: Kennit, Wintrow, Etta and Vivacia: Malta and Reyn: and Brashen, Althea and Amber with the serpents and a modicum of other chracters making up the rest.
Some parts of the book are not great and i feel go on a little, usually (but not always!) concerning Ronica and Keriffia and the complecated politics which is a neccessary evil for the book to have structure. But these pieces are few and far between and the majority of the book is dedicated to an exiting or gripping event or excellent dialouge.
The new things to this segment apart from the story becoming broader yet more clearer as we begin to see what precise roles each person has, are the new characters: The Satrap and his companions. Other people suchh as Reyn are given more time in the book and with this come Malta, his family ,the rain wild area and a good suprise!.
Apart from the few minor problems, this book is an excellent and clever read with great twists and i truely reccomend it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2003
Set in the same world as her Farseer trilogy, The Mad Ship continues the story begun in Ship of Magic. Pirate Captain Kennit has captured his heart's desire, the living ship Vivacia. Her owners the Vestritt family plan to take her back using a mentally unstable ship Paragon, who had previously been blamed for the death of his crew several times over. Highly imaginative fantasy with vivid characters and a fluid plot from what seemed to be a newcomer to the genre. In fact Hobb already has a string of books to her name, or should I say previous name, writing as Megan Lindholm.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 October 1999
Having been completely captivated by The Ship of Magic, I had high hopes for The Mad Ship. I was not disappointed. It is absolutely superb. Intelligently written and full of interest and excitement, this book is a fascinating blend of original fantasy ideas, detailed narrative and plausible characterisation. For me, the budding Malta/Reyn relationship, which started out as a small aside in the previous novel, is one of the most enjoyable parts of the book, although I would quickly point out that this is by no means the only gripping element of the story. The decline of the Bingtown Traders, the rise of the pirate 'king', the lives of the mysterious Rain Wilds folk and the origin of the live ships all make very compelling reading. Even the role of the sea serpents, which had been a rather puzzling component of The Ship of Magic, becomes clearer and forms an important part of an exciting plot revelation.
It's a phrase that is bandied about a lot when discussing novels, but I really did find this one very difficult to put down. The only criticism I have with The Mad Ship is that the book stopped without the story ending, and I now have to wait for the next installment to find out what happens.
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