Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb

This, the third of Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders novels, brings the trilogy to an exciting and satisfying conclusion. Having become quite attached to the characters and swept away by the story over the course of the three novels, I’m sorry to have come to the end – but I have to admit, I’m also happy that I’ve finished and can now move on to the Tawny Man books and rejoin old friends from Hobb’s Farseer trilogy. First, though, I need to post my thoughts on Ship of Destiny – and as this is a trilogy which really needs to be read in order, I can’t avoid spoiling elements of the previous two books here; if you think you might want to read them I would recommend going no further with this review until you’ve read both Ship of Magic and The Mad Ship.

Ship of Destiny picks up each of the trilogy’s many storylines from where they left off at the end of The Mad Ship. For much of the novel, our main characters are divided into small groups, each having separate adventures of their own, until fate eventually brings them together in a dramatic sequence of events which brings The Liveship Traders to a close.

First of all, there’s Malta, who has escaped from the aftermath of the earthquake in Trehaug and has found herself sailing down the hazardous Rain Wild River in the company of the childish and petulant Satrap of Jamaillia. Malta’s betrothed, Reyn Khuprus, is desperately searching for her, with the reluctant help of Tintaglia the dragon. Newly released from her cocoon, Tintaglia would prefer to be getting down to more important business, such as saving her species from extinction.

On board the liveship Paragon, Althea Vestrit, Brashen Trell and Amber the wood-carver are getting closer and closer to the Vivacia, the Vestrit family liveship which Althea has her heart set on reclaiming. But Vivacia has already bonded with her new captain, the pirate Kennit, and with Althea’s nephew Wintrow; Althea could be facing disappointment when she finally catches up with her beloved ship. Meanwhile, Ronica and Keffria are trying to rebuild and reform Bingtown following the Chalcedean invasion – but for this they will need the cooperation of Serilla, the Satrap’s Companion, whose priority seems to be to obtain power for herself.

When I wrote about The Mad Ship a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was particularly intrigued by Amber, as she made me think of another character from the Farseer trilogy. That character, of course, is the Fool, and I was pleased to find that my suspicions were confirmed in this book. Amber recarves Paragon’s figurehead to resemble Fitz, there are discussions of destiny, and there are exchanges like this:

“You’d have to be a fool to think you could change the course of the whole world.”

She was silent until she broke out in a shaky laugh. “Oh, Paragon, in that you are more right than you know, my friend.”

Other characters continued to interest me too, particularly Malta. Who would have thought the annoying, selfish girl we met in the first book would mature so quickly and turn out to be such a shrewd negotiator? Kennit, on the other hand, goes from being a complex and strangely sympathetic character to a villain whose treatment of Althea and Paragon made me lose all respect for him – although I did find his final scenes in the book quite moving.

On reaching the end of The Liveship Traders, I didn’t feel as bereft as at the end of The Farseer trilogy, which I think is partly because, while there were plenty of characters I liked and cared about, I never felt as close to any of them as I did to Fitz. I was less emotionally involved with this trilogy, but I did still thoroughly enjoy it; I loved the world Robin Hobb created here and I was impressed by her ability to handle multiple storylines and keep track of who knows what! Also, as someone who doesn’t read a lot of fantasy, I found the dragon element fascinating, which is probably fortunate as if I’m going to continue working through Hobb’s novels I will eventually need to read The Rain Wild Chronicles which, judging by the titles, sound very dragon-heavy! First, though, I’m looking forward to the Tawny Man trilogy – I have my copy of the first book, Fool’s Errand, ready and waiting…

8 thoughts on “Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb

  1. The Idle Woman says:

    Ooh, Fool’s Errand is one of my 5-star books. Looking forward to seeing what you make of it! And yes, I’m afraid you do have to wade through all the earlier series, including the Rain Wild books, if you plan to read the most recent trilogy. 😉

  2. Deborah Osborne says:

    I was really disappointed by how Kennit treated Althea. It’s been a while since I read this book, but for me it felt almost out of character for him or at the least, with not very believable motivations behind it, That made the incident seem like more of a plot mechanism to create more conflict in the Althea/Trell romance. What did you think?
    I agree about Malta! I loved the way she changed and developed over the three novels. By the end she was probably my favourite.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, Kennit’s behaviour was disappointing. It wasn’t something I would have expected him to do, so I agree that it’s purpose seemed to be to cause more problems for Althea and Trell. It’s a shame as I had found him such an intriguing character in the first two books.
      Malta ended up being one of my favourites too. 🙂

  3. Café Society says:

    I am so envious of you having the rest of these novels still to read for the first time. I can only say of the final novel, Assassin’s Fate, which came out earlier this year, that you will meet all your old friends there and that I cried my way through the last forty or so pages even though I knew it was the most perfect ending possible.

    • Helen says:

      Thank you – I’m sorry that I didn’t discover Robin Hobb’s books earlier, but knowing that I still have so much to look forward to makes up for it. It will be a while until I’m ready to read Assassin’s Fate (another nine books to get through first, I think) but I’m pleased to hear you found the ending perfect.

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    OK, I went no further than your warning because I want to read this trilogy. Currently I am reading the third of a fantasy trilogy, The Keeper of Tales Trilogy by Ronlyn Domingue. I have loved each volume: The Mapmaker’s War, The Chronicle of Secret Riven and now The Plague Diaries. Last night I asked my husband if he had read any other fantasy than Lord of the Rings and he mentioned the Gormenghast Trilogy by British author Mervyn Peake. I looked it up and will probably not read it but in one of the reviews I read Robin Hobb’s name came up! Just one of those “book things” that I like so much.

    • Helen says:

      Oh, I love the Gormenghast books! I first read them as a teenager and am hoping to reread them in the next year or two. They are very long and descriptive, though, so probably aren’t for everyone. I haven’t heard of the Ronlyn Domingue trilogy – I’ll have to investigate. 🙂

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