Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders #1) by Robin Hobb
Wizardwood, a sentient wood.
The most precious commodity in the world.
Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds.
But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…
Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This is Robin Hobb’s second series set in the same world as the Farseer trilogy but the characters, and storyline are completely unrelated. The Six Duchies and the Red Ships War are mentioned in passing but have no real impact on the story.
The main story is based around the Vestrit family, their struggle to deal with internal strife while struggling to stay alive financially. Their main asset is Vivacia, the Liveship who “quickens” early in the book into a sentient life form. Vivacia’s cost is paid for by a generations old loan from a Rain Wild Trader family which is ominously owed in gold or blood.
There is a large cast of characters in the story from members of the Vestrit family to Kennit the pirate with ambitions to be King and a mad Liveship who has killed his family and crew on multiple occasions and is now stranded and blind on a beach.
The variety and complexity of multiple major and minor characters carries the danger of confusing the reader but Hobb’s excellent writing creates an unbelievably compelling story and keeps everything tight and easy to follow.
This is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read.