Sunday, May 22, 2016
In this installment, a ship gets mad!!! See what I did there??! Here I go again.... sounding like a broken record. Robin Hobb's fantasy writing is simply perfection. I will try my hardest to provide examples of her greatness with minimal gushing (no promises).
In an attempt to remain spoiler-free, the changes in ship ownership and status have left everyone unsure of their place. The Vestrit family fortune is on the line as Vivacia hasn't returned to port. The old traders of Bingtown are facing hardships due to tariffs and the Satrap's neglect.
The characters continue to delight! I enjoyed Kennit's complexity because my feelings were constantly shifting, even if he remained mostly detestable. Malta's evolution was also interesting, with her changing priorities and perception of events as she aged. Speaking of perception, I liked the scenes where Paragon was being outfitted to sail. While his past is shameful, restoring his image as a proud ship is intended to represent optimistic renewal as a liveship. A "fake it until you make it" of sorts.
Althea's character arc is a study in the struggle of gender roles. She's desperate to be a sailor, without the societal expectation of staying at home and having babies while her husband is at sea. However, she still wants the normal experience of being in love. I understood her harshness, but also appreciated her honesty in dealing with those she couldn't please.
Hobb continues the cryptic revelations of the serpent tangle, with their quest to find memories and rebirth from "She Who Remembers". I know this element will be tied in to the Liveship and Bingtown quest somehow, because Hobb always has a purpose for each story thread. I like the small glimpses we get of Selden, the young Vestrit brother who seems to be in the shadows. I loved finally hearing about the Rain Wild Forests in magical detail.
It's sad to approach the end of the trilogy, even though I have more of Hobb's books on my shelves. The story is still enthralling. Every character and theme continues to be fleshed out. I'm going to take a break and read another novel before this series conclusion, but another win for my favorite author!
Friday, May 6, 2016
I've been a bit silent on the book reviewing front. Sorry about that! I went through an unusual reading slump after dragging myself through a few books, and took a small break. I wanted to return to a sure thing....and Hobb has proven her excellence time and again. She is truly a master and I can't sing her praises highly enough. If you ever try Fantasy, I recommend her novels as a jumping off point.
I have written reviews for the Farseer Trilogy in Hobb's expansive Realm of the Elderlings series, and have been told by countless people on Booktube that this is some of her best work yet (thank the Good Lord she's sactively writing!!!). I just started the second book and will marathon these similarly to how I read the first set.
We follow characters in Bingtown and Jamailla, where Old Trader families are experiencing hard times due to slave labor and wars in the North. The ruling leader-Satrap- has allowed the areas to fall into neglect because of his inattention and addiction, which has also made him susceptible to bribes from New Traders hoping to takeover the Old Trader holdings.
The Liveships are the center of this tale. They are ships made from magical Wizardwood, which is only available in the Rain Wild Forests. Once a member from three generations of family have lived and died aboard the ship, it is "quickened" and becomes alive- a thriving vessel that brings prosperity and easier sailing for it's family. This valuable resource must be handled appropriately.
I have so many things to say that I could ramble for paragraphs on end, and that would be a tedious experience indeed. Here's just a few of my my favorite things in this book.
CHARACTERS- Good grief, the development of her characters continues to astonish me. The Vestrit Trader family is nuanced and goes through extreme emotional turmoil as their livelihood is threatened. Each person responds differently to the family threat, and acts according to their life experience. I found I kept making parallels between characters in the Farseer books to these (Burrich to Brashen, Wintrow to Fitz (although Althea could be likened to Fitz as well due to the outcast angle). While this comparison could be problematic with a less-skilled author, the story still felt wholly new and original.
Also, there is an appropriate level of death. People aren't killed off willy-nilly. There is time for connections to develop, and when one does happen, it seems imminent and/or realistic for the situation.
PERSONIFICATION: The idea of reading about a ship weeping doesn't sound that entertaining. It sounds weird, not beautiful or interesting. Well, Robin Hobb can make it feel like your family member is crying. The beauty of the Liveship Vivacia when talking to Wintrow about family ties is one such surprising passage: "Who are you, I wonder, you creatures of flesh and blood and bone, born in your own bodies and doomed to perish when that flesh fails?....Yet when one of you is near, I feel you are woven of the same strand as I, that we are but extensions of a segmented life, and that together we complete one another. I feel a joy in your presence, because I feel my own life wax greater when we are close to one another." (pg 163)
Another quote when Vivacia is feeling anxious: "It was a terrible division, to feel such need for someone, and yet to feel angry that the need existed." (pg 704).
Okay, I guess it's still weird that a ship is that complex. But Hobb can pull it off, somehow.
WRITING: Stellar, magnificent, awesome, EVERYTHING. I might have said this before (I've certainly heard others mention it), but if you enjoy literary fiction and are curious about Fantasy, she's your girl.
PLOT: Even if you don't care about strong writing and simply want good action, she provides. If you like sea adventures (that even feature serpents!), pirates, romance, complex family dynamics, with the backdrop of an expansive world, here ya go.
PACING: Even though this story is told in a linear fashion without time jumps, having this many characters is a challenge. Somehow, I always felt like people received their fair time. I wasn't wishing I was back with other characters, everyone got an appropriate page count. I wasn't left with that all-too-familiar readerly feeling of wishing someone had more time in the book because I felt cheated. When I started to feel curious about how the Vestrits were getting on, almost instantaneously (okay, a few pages later) I was back with them. I think you've found your perfect author when that happens...it's like they sense your needs.
My least favorite parts were the shortest, such as the sections with the serpent tangle. I knew they were important, but I didn't want to hear from them in full-length chapter detail. Hobb knew. Their interludes were just a couple pages sprinkled throughout the chapters. I'm sure they'll play a larger part in the next two books, but for now have the perfect amount of attention. Readers, the story flows without a hitch.
WORLD BUILDING: I love a book with good maps! This series has one of the most extensive worlds I've ever experienced. It's not necessary to read the Farseer books before this, but there are cool passing references that are alluded to in this book. It's fun to to know the Rain Wild people have their own Chronicles in the next trilogy. There are tons of nooks and crannies to get lost in. It's hard for me to pick a favorite location. Every time I decide, I'm reminded of other areas I love.
CONS: There weren't any for me. As in most fantasy worlds, it's involved. It will take 50-75 pages to get your bearings with the people and setting. The connections take some mental energy, so if you're wanting a quick, non-taxing read, hold off on this until you can fully appreciate the content. However, it's not needlessly complex and convoluted the way many are. Everything has a point and a payoff.
I really hope you'll pick up Robin Hobb at some point in your reading life. I'd love to chat with you if you do! She's firmly on my "Authors to Meet" bucket list. I'm sure I'll simply utter an awkward "Thank You!!!", but feel that's sufficient for meeting someone I hold in such high esteem. This is storytelling at it's finest.