Okay . . . over the past couple of weeks, I very slowly worked my way through SHIP OF MAGIC, MAD SHIP, and SHIP OF DESTINY by Robin Hobb.
Honestly . . . I can’t decide what I think of them. They’re solidly in the modern-epic-fantasy subgenre. Lots of pov characters, lots of intersecting plotlines.
The difference between this trilogy and George RR Martin’s series is: nobody important gets killed in the first book. Actually, I don’t think anybody really important gets killed at all.
The difference between this trilogy and Joe Abercrombe’s BEST SERVED COLD trilogy is that all the characters either become better people over time, or at least don’t start off as decent people and then become corrupted, weak, and/or evil. And one of the more evil characters? Turns out there’s a very good reason for why he is the way he is, and I don’t mean a pseudopsychological explanation involving unhappy childhoods. (Though he also had an unhappy childhood, but seriously, that wasn’t why he was the way he was.)
When I started this trilogy, I was pretty sure I would wind up giving it away. And maybe I will. But I ended up liking it a lot better than I thought I would, largely because of the characters growing up and changing in good ways over the course of the books.
We have The Willful, Headstrong Heiress, Althea. I am not a big fan of the Willful, Headstrong Heroine in general, but Althea was not as annoying as some and she did turn out well.
Then there’s her niece, the Other Willful, Headstrong Heiress, Malta, who is also selfish and stupid. Thank the Lord, she grows up a LOT and becomes a very different kind of person by the end. Plus, she turns out not to be stupid after all, once she gets over being ultimately self-centered.
There’s the Dispossessed Son Trying To Prove Himself. Brashen does okay, though. He’s flawed in believable and not-too-serious ways and he really is a competent guy.
There’s the Evil Pirate, Kennit, who turns out to be very interesting, though ordinarily I’m not at all interested in seeing the pov of the bad guys. Too, too tedious. But he’s a sociopath trying to pass himself off as a good guy, which raises all these questions about what it means to be a good guy. I mean, if you do all these good-guy things, but don’t feel it, are you a good guy after all? Or not?
There’s the Whore-Turned-Pirate-Queen, Etta. Okay, I DID love Etta, right from the first.
We have the Oppressed Wife, Keffria, who takes longer to stand on her own two feet than seems strictly necessary. And her Evil Husband, who raises the question: Is he actually insane? Or just extremely selfish and stupid?
And Ronica, her mother, who works so hard to protect her family, against considerable odds. Though if she hadn’t supported Kyle over Althea in the beginning, well, whatever. I guess that would have changed the plot a whole lot.
And the Satrap’s Companion of the Heart, whose name I unfortunately have forgotten, who has some pretty dramatic ups and downs when it comes to coping with her life. Granted, she has a lot to contend with from time to time, but she’s definitely making more of her own problems than some of the others.
There’s The Boy Priest, Whitrow, who does enough stupid, stupid things in the first book to nearly make me give up on the whole book. Like: leaving the ship with no money and planning just to wing it on your way back to the monastery? This is your plan? And then letting yourself get drawn in to the very first altercation that you pass? It’s not like all his trouble is of his own making, but his worst trouble sure is.
And Reyn, who listens to dragons a bit too much, or just enough, whatever.
There’s the mad liveship, Paragon. Actually, Paragon was almost the only character I found interesting in the first book — the others grew on me later, but Paragon was always fascinating. We barely see him in the first book, though.
There’s the other liveship, Vivacia. I liked her, except when her Evil Twin took over for a while.
And last — the serpents! I like them fine. They are not exactly nice or pleasant, but they are interesting and not at all human. And the dragon herself is SUCH a selfish, egotistical creature, but I guess I can see why. Not that I liked her. Very interesting, for Robin Hobb to choose to create really unlikeable dragons.
I think that’s, what, fourteen point-of-view characters? Excessive much?
Still, there’s no doubt Hobb is a good writer. And okay, okay, yes, it did work out in ways that made me like it. I’m glad I read it all the way through. Really. But I’m not sure I will ever read it again, so I think it is still destined for the give-away pile.