Saturday, August 29, 2020

51. Mad Ship (The Liveship Traders Book II) by Robin Hobb

Wow!  This has been the least productive reading month for me for a long time.  Still two days left, but pretty clear that I will fail to achieve my 5 books a month goal.  The last time I went below 5 books was May 2019.  I have many excuses.  The biggest factor is the NBA playoff bubble which was running 4 games a day for almost three weeks in August.  I also allowed myself to fall back into a lot of wasted time on Twitter.  Things will tighten up in September.

My lack of reading forces me to question my phat fantasy strategy.  Mad Ship keeps up all the good stuff from the Ship of Destiny, and because I am so deep into it now, I can read it in snippets.  She packs so much story in each chapter that sometimes I have to take a break.  So it would seem an ideal companion to the NBA playoffs. The problem is that about halfway through the month, I start to feel the pressure of not meeting my monthly goal (and slipping away from the ultimate goal of restoring my monthly average to 50).  It makes it hard for me to truly sit back and enjoy this deep fantasy universe and the enjoyable unraveling of its mysteries.

In Book 2, we get a lot more of the pirate Kennit.  He becomes almost mythical, though it is hard to tell if it is his own insane ego or that he may actually be an important, fated piece in all the machinations going on around him.  He takes Wintrow, the ex-monk to Sa, under his wing and with his consort Etta and their pirate crew, they set in motion several important triggers that will rock the world of Jamailla, Bingtown and the Rain Wilds.  Their piracy of slaveships accelerates the confrontation between Bingtown and the Satrap (with the Chalced States behind him).  On the big magical picture, Kennit pushes Wintrow into a situation where he releases a sea serpent that is key to the story of the tangle in the prologues to each chapter.  There seems to be a lot of destiny going on.  We also follow the storyline of the rest of the Vestrit family as they put the mad liveship Paragon to sea to rescue the Vivacia and her captain.  

The political conflicts in this second book were great, complex enough to make them interesting but not get lost.  Most of the magical backstory is revealed here and it is really cool.  At first, the mythology seemed so different than that of the first trilogy, that I thought they were going to be basically two separate storylines.  Here, at the end, the reveal connects them in a really interesting way that gives you a totally different understanding of the dragons in the Assassin trilogy.  It's very cool.

I overally really enjoyed it, but there is still some balance with Robin Hobb that sometimes makes me have to put the book down in frustration.  Her characters are often relentlessly pessimistic and whiny.  Sometimes it makes sense, but it always seems to get pushed too far.  And you know something bad is going to happen to them before any good stuff, so it can be demotivating.  She also relies on people's stubbornness and stupidity as a plot device and sometimes it really doesn't work. It's a small part, but when Reyn is drinking himself to sleep to avoid the dragon dreams and his brother and mom come to him and he tells them to find Malta, they just ignore him and treat him like a baby.  Yet, they all were raised understanding the danger and power of the old city.  They also know the situation is super dangerous.  They would at least have checked on Malta. I found that really unbelievable and frustrating and it threw me out of the book.

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