“Below the serpents, the beds of weeds swayed gently in the changing tide.”First line in The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb
Author: Robin Hobb
Published: March 1999
The second book in the Liveship Traders trilogy is a step up from the first one. The plot started to take shape, so even if the book is still slow, it gave the story more of a direction. And the plot is very fascinating. There is a lot of social commentary involved that I had a great time analyzing, but it also really adds to the depth of the novel. Then you also have the characters who are both loveable and frustrating but all feel very real. I can tell they are going to stick with me, even the ones that made me want to tear my own hair out.
I can’t say much more about the second book in a series without spoiling anything, so I’m going to share my favorite quotes and then the rest of the post will be my spoilery thoughts which I wrote down while reading the book.
“Everyone thinks that courage is about facing death without flinching. But almost anyone can do that. Almost anyone can hold their breath and not scream for as long as it takes to die. True courage is facing life without flinching. I don’t mean the times when the right path is hard, but glorious at the end. I’m talking about enduring the boredom, and the messines, and the inconvienience of doing what is right.”
“Love isn’t just about feeling sure of the other person, knowing what he would give up for you. It’s knowing with certainty what you are willing to surrender for his sake. Make no mistake; each partner gives up something. Individual dreams are surrendered for a shared one.”
Please be aware the rest of the post will include SPOILERS!
🐍 Oh, look, we’re starting with the serpents again. Gotta say I’m really not a fan of those chapters. I’m sure they’re going to lead to something, but until they do, they’re just an annoying break in the story.
🐍 Lots of Wintrow here in the beginning which I’m not complaining about. I was a bit worried, though, after we got a scene of Kennit admiring Wintrow’s beauty… What was that all about? I’m not sure if it was just a throw-away thing or there’s more to it. Also, right now I’ve stopped reading at a point where it looks like Kennit is dead. I don’t believe it though. His story can’t be done yet.
🐍 Why are there so many man-babies in Hobb’s books? Regal, Kyle and now this Satrap guy. I don’t normally enjoy it when books have that kind of antagonist because they’re just a bit too stupid to be frightening, but I don’t think that’s the entire purpose of them in Hobb’s books. Especially here in Liveship Traders, I think they’re there to portray the inequality between men and women. Like, men can behave in whatever manner they want, do their job poorly and be genuinely rude and selfish… but they still attain and hold these positions of power, while women need to be perfect and sacrifice their life and dreams to gain just the tiniest bit of power for themselves. I love subtle social commentary like that, so I will suffer the man-babies.
🐍 I think reading chapters from Malta’s perspective is taking years off my life.
🐍 Can we get back to Wintrow and get confirmation that Kennit isn’t dead? Because I know he isn’t but I do like to be proven right.
🐍 Kennit is alive 😎
🐍 So Althea is back home and that was inevitably going to give some clashes. Her plans don’t really go along with the situation her family is in right now, and none of them know that Vivacia is unlikely to return to Bingtown at all. However, her reaction to Malta is the content I’m here for. She took one look at Malta and went all “why is this child speaking?” and then she ignored her. Please give me more of those two interacting. Althea is not going to put up with Malta’s bullshit.
🐍 Okay, so I’m actually very intrigued by Wintrow’s situation (just like in the first book, his chapters are my favorites) because it’s looking like his position with Kennit is permanent, and he’s kind of making Kennit seem like, maybe not a good person, but maybe someone who isn’t the antagonist he was presented as in the first book. It’s like Wintrow has become his conscience while Wintrow himself is also going through some changes that might give him some edge.
🐍 Brashen follows in Althea’s footsteps with Malta by taking her for a servant and later asking her if she’s dressed up for a fancy tea party with her friends 😂😂 I know this isn’t solving anything and Malta is only going to get worse but it makes me feel better! Also very glad that Brashen had the sense not to tell her about Vivacia before Keffria and Ronica got there. I’m kind of intrigued to see what Malta’s approach is going to be when she finds out that her precious father isn’t coming to her rescue.
🐍 *insert frustration over Malta here*
🐍 Okay, maybe I was a bit too lenient with Kennit earlier because now he’s sort of bad again. He literally just left a bunch of people on an almost deserted island because they annoyed him (although it does sound like a tempting strategy now that I think about it). And we met his mother! I must admit I found it just a bit funny how he went on about liking the talks he has with her nowadays because it’s so easy for him to direct the conversation. No shit man, she’s mute 😂 And we lost the priest, which I’m happy with because then he can’t hurt Wintrow. However, it did feel a bit too soon for him to go, but it could be the thing to drive a wedge between Wintrow and Kennit.
🐍 I’m still very confused about that talking charm on Kennit’s wrist. My theory is that it’s talking to him whenever he’s doing something cruel, but I cannot for the life of me think of a reason why or what the goal of the charm is. It seems to be content to just wait. But for what??
🐍 Apparently, Kennit has completely convinced Vivacia that piracy is a good thing. It just uses some harsh methods… That sounds like some manipulation she isn’t going to come back from. I’m glad that Wintrow has realized this so maybe he can do something. Kennit clearly sees value in him.
🐍 Maybe I don’t know much about loyalty, but the Vestrits need to drop Restart. Immediately! He’s undermining them at every turn, but they continuously excuse him by claiming he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. I think he does. He’s not loyal to them in any way, but they think they will lose their honor if they refuse him. I just don’t think their situation could get much worse so how about trying to drop him as a friend? It could surprise you!
🐍 Just read: “To set sail on a mad ship, in the dim hope of seeking out and recovering her family’s liveship was an errand for a fool.” Well, if my theory is correct, you do have a Fool among you 👀
🐍 So glad that Althea rejected Grag. She was just never going to be happy with him because he didn’t know her and she would need to sacrifice too much. That last conversation proved that and then he got angry with Brashen for sleeping with her even though she said she wanted to. I was quite impressed by how she managed to control her temper there because I for sure wouldn’t have been able to. Now I just need Wintrow to stand up for himself in a similar fashion. Otherwise, he might up as a father at the age of fourteen. I repeat, FOURTEEN! Not to mention how that would also be his death sentence. I’m really worried though because I’m struggling to see a way out for him and Kennit is such a masterful manipulator.
🐍 …Are the serpents liveships? I don’t understand. How did they become serpents then if they were the dragons inside the wizardwood? Was that Draquius (subtle name) the One Who Remembers? Or are they still searching for that one? I’m so confused.
🐍 I was grinning like an idiot on the bus today (thanks for that, Hobb) because I was reading about Kennit convincing Etta to teach Wintrow something she’s good at as a reward for teaching her how to read. Kennit, of course, means sex because he still wants a baby-Wintrow and what else could a whore be good at? That Etta goes to teach Wintrow about knives instead because she doesn’t get Kennit’s meaning is what put that stupid grin on my face. How is that not hilarious? 😂 I didn’t really care for Etta before, but now I LOVE her. Could she actually be Wintrow’s ally now that Vivacia clearly doesn’t care about him? Even Althea isn’t going to win her back.
🐍 Nooooo, Wintrow! You can’t trust him! Please tell me it’s a ruse!
🐍 Restart died?? Not that I’m all that mad about it as he was going to sell Malta to the man-baby but I’m a bit surprised. At least he can’t do any more damage.
🐍 I’ve just read the chapter where Wintrow freed the serpent and OMG! That was She Who Remembers! So now we know stuff! Liveships are dead serpents, somehow killed by the Rain Wilds while transforming into dragons. And that’s probably why the Rain Wild people are deformed. They live in close contact with that poisonous stuff from the serpents. My next question is how the hell did Kennit just control a serpent? His charm must be some dead dragon too but I don’t see how that makes a difference. Also, my concern for Wintrow is at an extremely high level at the moment.
🐍 When Malta was making demands for the dragon about saving her father and killing the pirates… did she forget she has an older brother? One who needs saving too? One who could be mistaken for a pirate? Does it matter now since she wasn’t the one to free the dragon anyway?
🐍 Amber saying: “It’s not the first time I’ve been called a fool, and likely not the last.” I’m living for these “Amber is the Fool”-references!
🐍 Final thoughts: I might be a bit disappointed with the ending after that Wintrow-chapter, maybe just because we were with Malta for most of it. I also thought the scenes with Reyn and Selden were very confusing so I wasn’t that invested in the ending. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that I really loved this book. It didn’t feel like 900+ pages just went by because I was so immersed all the time, and I finally know what is going on. The revelation about the liveships being serpents and dragons was definitely not one I saw coming, and it gives so many opportunities for the last book. Is the whole series going to end with no liveships at all? They form the basis for the world we’ve gotten to know so how is everyone going to cope with the knowledge that the Rain Wilds have been killing dragons?
The book also really ends on several cliffhangers. I’ve lost count of how many of the characters could be dead by the time I open the third book. You know I’m desperate to start the third one right this second just to check if Wintrow is okay. Leaving me hanging like this really isn’t cool.
That was almost every single thought I had while reading The Mad Ship. I hope you enjoyed it if you got this far because I certainly enjoyed reading the book if that wasn’t clear. Let me know what you thought of the book if you’ve read it. I’d love to know!