Review: Mad Ship by Robin Hobb

Book review of Robin Hobb’s Mad Ship

Mad Ship by Robin HobbShip of Magic was one of my favorite fantasy reads to date, and Robin Hobb has certainly gained in popularity in recent years, so for the second novel in The Liveship Traders trilogy, I had fairly high expectations. To the joy of readers everywhere, Hobb continues in top form with Mad Ship, bringing back many of the memorable characters from the first novel, and introducing a few new ones.

The concept of living, breathing, talking ships is certainly novel, and Hobb continues to explore this inventive theme in Mad Ship. She does so with the same enthusiasm displayed in Ship of Magic, and in Mad Ship takes the idea to a new level. In Ship of Magic Hobb reveals a richer backstory to the liveship theme that lends even further credibility to what was already a logical and believable magic system in Ship of Magic. I won’t get into details and ruin the book for those who have yet to read it, but suffice to say the storyline following the sea serpents, their connection to liveships, and some of the history backing the story are very satisfying.

Hobb brings back a wonderful cast of main characters such as Althea, Captain Kennit and Wintrow, liveships such as Ophelia and Paragon, and introduces or focuses more on supporting characters such as Malta, Reyn, Brashen, Amber, Serilla and Magnadon Cosgo. Also, there is a dragon in Mad Ship. We thrill to see Althea return to Bingtown and struggle with deciding to stay and support her family versus returning to the open sea to save the family liveship, Ophelia. We struggle while Wintrow fights to survive aboard Ophelia, while Ophelia struggles to determine how to handle her kidnappers, pirates lead by Captain Kennit. We are frustrated and occasionally appalled watching Malta quickly mature from a young girl into a young woman, and how she immaturely tries to handle the courting of a Rain Wild man, Reyn. In short, there are characters in Mad Ship you will connect with, and will come to love.

Another aspect of Mad Ship I enjoyed thoroughly is the structure of the chapters, and variety of the story lines. I immediately noticed the similarities with the structure of George R.R. Martin’s novels. In the first eight chapters of Mad Ship, you’ll find six or seven different story lines and point of views. The variety is healthy enough that the reader will never get bogged down in one single plot, but not so much to be overwhelming. The key is how Hobb ties all the point of views together, to weave the beautiful overarching story that is Mad Ship.

Of course, we are presented with Hobb’s powerful writing chops, including fantastic descriptive/introspective passages like this example:

It was like sweeping his fingers across a stringed instrument, save that the chord he awoke was not sound. Kennit’s life suddenly sang with his own. Wintrow reeled with the force of the connection, then sat down hard on the deck. A moment later, he tried to describe it to himself. It had not been Kennit’s memories, nor his thoughts or dreams. Instead, it had been an intense awareness of the pirate. The closest comparison he could summon was the way a perfume or scent could suddenly call up detailed memories, but a hundred times stronger. His sense of Kennit had almost driven him out of himself.

Did I forget to mention there are boats in Mad Ship? There is high seas action aplenty here, and you’ll eat up every moment of it.

Hobb also manages to work in some good advice in her books, and here’s a quote I particularly enjoyed:

“Especially then,” she replied sweetly. “That’s how it’s done, Trell. You break your heart against this stony world. You fling yourself at it, on the side of good, and you do not ask the cost. That’s how you do it.”

Mad Ship is a quality follow-up to a fantastic first novel in The Liveship Traders trilogy, and if you liked the first book in the series, you’ll absolutely adore the sophomore edition. I absolutely devoured this 850-page paperback in record time.

You can purchase Mad Ship over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Reviews, Robin Hobb, The Liveship Traders | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fantasy Blogosphere: October 3, 2011

A few reviews this week, but the real story is the interview onslaught, kicked off by a Brandon Sanderson sitting down with Fantasy Magazine, and continuing with a plethora of interviews with authors like R.A Salvatore, George R.R. Martin, Lev Grossman, and others.

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Amazon’s Top 5 Fantasy Books, October 2, 2011

George R.R. Martin drops down to fourth, with a slew of new books making the top five. The Night Circus continues its reign in first place.

  1. The Night Circus (Hardcover) by Erin Morgenstern
  2. A Touch of Night (Kindle) by Sarah A. Hoyt and Sofie Skapski
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Kindle) by Lewis Carroll
  4. A Dance with Dragons (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  5. Marysvale (Hardcover) by Jared Southwick
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Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

Book review of Brandon Sanderson’s Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension by Brandon SandersonThe Well of Ascension is the second book in the Mistborn trilogy, and had quite big shoes to fill as the sophomore offering following one of the best opening fantasy novels in a trilogy I’ve ever read. I’ve read some other reviews of The Well of Ascension which generally state that its a good follow-up to Mistborn, but not quite as good. My expectations were high, and thankfully Sanderson delivers another gem in The Well of Ascension.

Some of the best characters are back in The Well of Ascension, like Vin, Elend, and Sazed, and Sanderson adds a few new great characters to the mix, in the form of a Terris-woman named Tindwyl, the mistborn son of Straff Venture, Zane, and a shape-shifting kandra named OreSeur. Sanderson also brings back Kelsier’s crew from Mistborn. The cast of characters in The Well of Ascension is colorful, varied, and robust. The supporting characters are as believable as the central ones, and the way Sanderson weaves their stories together is nothing short of masterful.

The story in The Well of Ascension follows Elend, Vin and crew as they attempt to organize and maintain some form of organization and control on the capital dominance city of Luthadel. While Elend is busy preaching his politics, Vin is busy soaring the night skies. While this is going on, the city is threatened by not one, not two, but three separate external threats. The plot follows the movements and inner workings of these three armies, so we get to see military intrigue in The Well of Ascension. All the while there is this sense of impending doom manifested in the form of something Sanderson terms The Deepness. In short, the plot in The Well of Ascension moves, is deeply intertwined, and not for one single moment will you feel un-entertained.

In addition to fantastic characters, a complex plot that has some spunk, and the fantastic magic system we’ve come to love in Mistborn, The Well of Ascension ups the ante by taking on themes of leadership. Leadership is a recurring theme in The Well of Ascension, as we see Elend Venture develop from a young man into a man fit to lead an empire. Tindwyl is his guide, and a wonderful one at that:

“Arrogance, Your Majesty,” Tindwyl said. “Successful leaders all share one common trait-they believe that they can do a better job than the alternatives. Humility is fine when considering your responsibility and duty, but when it comes time to make a decision, you must not question yourself.”

We see Elend comment on Tindwyl’s teachings later in the novel:

“Clothing doesn’t really change a man,” Elend said. “But it changes how others react to him. Tindwyl’s words. I think…I think the trick is convincing yourself you deserve the reactions you get.”

And my favorite, which really drives home the principle of how leadership truly functions:

“It was his ability to trust,” she said. “It was the way that he made good people into better people, the way that he inspired them. His crew worked because he had confidence in them-because he respected them. And, in return, they respected each other. Men like Breeze and Clubs became heroes because Kelsier had faith in them”.

And of course, with any Sanderson novel, we get a healthy dose of introspection and contemplative character thought:

“At first glance, the key and the lock it fits may seem very different,” Sazed said. ” Different in shape, different in function, different in design. The man who looks at them without knowledge of their true nature might think them opposites, for one is meant to open, and the other to keep closed. Yet, upon closer examination, he might see that without one, the other becomes useless. The wise man then sees that both the lock and the key were created for the same purpose.”

For these reasons and more, I think I actually enjoyed The Well of Ascension more (if that’s possible) than the original Mistborn. They’re both fantastic reads, and I can’t wait to close out the trilogy, and also am thrilled to see Sanderson is continuing to write in this world with his latest release, The Alloy of Law.

You can purchase The Well of Ascension over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Brandon Sanderson, Reviews, The Mistborn Trilogy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fantasy Blogosphere: September 26, 2011

Reviews of The Magician King, American Gods and Goliath this week, along with interviews with George R.R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Tad Williams and Terry Brooks. The Times profiles Jim Butcher, and A Game of Thrones makes first appearances in the comic book and video game industries.

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Amazon’s Top 5 Fantasy Books, September 25, 2011

The Night Circus holds strong in first place for the second straight week, with George R.R. Martin gobbling up the remaining four slots.

  1. The Night Circus (Kindle) by Erin Morgenstern
  2. A Dance with Dragons (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  3. A Game of Thrones (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  4. A Clash of Kings (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  5. A Storm of Swords (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
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Fantasy Blogosphere: September 19, 2011

An geek’s dream team of interviews this week, with all-star authors like Lev Grossman, Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Daniel Abraham, Peter S. Beagle, and more. The Night Circus makes some noise, placing in first in Amazon’s top 5 fantasy bestseller list for the week, and the detailed observer will notice reviews and interviews with author Erin Morgenstern popping up around the ‘webs. The talk is Harry Potter fans are hungry, and The Night Circus may be just the dish. Also, for a few weeks in a row, old-school “Choose Your Own Adventure” style books are making appearances in the fantasy blogosphere. Did someone say comeback?

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Amazon’s Top 5 Fantasy Books, September 18, 2011

Martin is finally dethroned after spending 13 weeks in first place, and pushed not into second, but third place, with The Night Circus and The Way of Shadows vaulting into first and second, respectively.

  1. The Night Circus (Kindle) by Erin Morgenstern
  2. The Way of Shadows (Kindle) by Brent Weeks
  3. A Dance with Dragons (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  4. A Game of Thrones (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  5. A Clash of Kings (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
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Fantasy Blogosphere: September 12, 2011

Check out reviews of Lev Grossman’s latest, The Magician King, The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham, and a few other goodies this week.

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Amazon’s Top 5 Fantasy Books, September 11, 2011

As we pause today and reflect on the last 10 years, don’t forget that during this most recent, George R.R. Martin reigns supreme.

  1. A Dance with Dragons (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  2. A Game of Thrones (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  3. A Clash of Kings (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  4. A Storm of Swords (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
  5. A Feast for Crows (Kindle) by George R.R. Martin
Categories: Bestsellers, News | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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