Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb

cover art for Ship of Destiny. A dark-haired woman of ambiguous ethnicity stands before a female figurehead in tones of blue. The woman wears a low-cut white dress edged in gold. The figurehead points and stares directly at the viewer.
SHIP OF DESTINY is the third book in the Liveship Traders trilogy. You do not want to read it unless you've already read SHIP OF MAGIC and MAD SHIP. Okay?

If you're looking for further proof that you really should pick this trilogy up, though, let me attempt to provide it for you now.

SHIP OF DESTINY brings the series to a close in a satisfying manner indeed, with kidnappings, dragons, and epic sea battles galore. Hobb continually moves the story forward, upping her game with each scene as she slides everything into alignment with almost effortless grace. The first time I read it, I considered it the sort of conclusion that seems as though it couldn't have happened any other way, even though you know the author is pulling the strings in the background. I didn't find it quite so smooth this time through, but it's still an excellent ending that resolves many things whilst giving the characters more to strive for as their lives extend beyond the story.

Each of the characters earns their ending. Not everyone gets a happily-ever-after, or even something with shades of same--Hobb is far too good to make it that easy--but each character's resolution is the direct result of their choices, their emotional journey, and the growth they've accomplished (or failed to achieve) over the last couple thousand pages. They're in different places now than they were when they began. Everything they've experienced has left its mark and helped shape them into people who fit with the new world they seek to forge.

It's far from smooth seas as they enter the final stretch, too. There are some horrifying steps along the way, including further sexual violence compounded by the fact that nobody believes the person who endures it. (Except Malta, whose immediate response is essentially, "Let's kill the fucker." You see why I love her?) Other characters are threatened physically and emotionally as they fight to preserve their culture or to make things right. Some of them lose their hold on themselves. Some of them die.

It ain't always happy, but it's always gripping. This is the sort of fiction I can happily throw myself into for hours on end. I wallowed in it, pure and simple, and I've no doubt I'll enjoy it as much when next I return to it. There's so much to unpack here; so many little things that take on new meaning when you experience them for the second (or, presumably, the third or fourth or tenth) time. I could devote a dozen spoiler-filled posts to these books and I'd feel like I still hadn't said enough.

On a related note, I'm fascinated by the way Hobb's first three trilogies echo and feed off of one another. The liveships clearly echo the stone dragons from ASSASSIN'S QUEST, what with their ability to absorb memories and their twisted ties to the dragons of old. Both Kennit and Paragon echo Fitz in a number of ways, not all of which come clear until we see Fitz again in the next trilogy. (I should add, too, that Paragon's repairs delighted me for their connection to Fitz, though I can understand why they don't have the same effect on Fitz himself.) Some of Althea's experiences seem small within the context of her own story, but contribute to the ending of FOOL'S FATE. And of course, this trilogy builds on the whole idea of the Elderlings, who were a heavily veiled mystery in the Farseer books and become slightly less of an enigma here.

Interconnected series are my very favourite. There's always so much to poke at as themes, storylines, and characters overlap or reference one another across thousands of pages. It's so much fun.

Once again, I haven't said nearly enough. Let me end with an assurance that this is a satisfying conclusion to a wonderful series rife with memorable characters, intricate plotting, and a keen examination of human nature. I highly recommend it to you.


While I always advocate your local library as the absolute best source for books, I recognize this may not be an option for everyone where every book is concerned. If you're in search of another way to read SHIP OF DESTINY, you can try:

I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you buy the book through one of the links above.

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