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Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – February 2, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 353 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Liveship Traders Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Robin Hobb, author of the Farseer trilogy, has returned to that world for a new series. Ship of Magic is a sea tale, reminiscent of Moby Dick and Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series in its details of shipboard life. It is also a fantasy adventure with sea serpents, pirates, and all sorts of magic. The liveships have distinct personalities and partner with specific people, somewhat like Anne McCaffrey's Brain ships and their Brawns, though these are trading ships and have full crews.

Hobb has peopled the book with many wonderfully developed characters. Most of the primary ones are members of the Vestritts, an Old Trader family which owns the liveship Vivacia. Their stories are intercut with those of Kennit, the ambitious pirate Brashen, the disinherited scion of another family who served on the Vestritt's ship, and Paragon, an old liveship abandoned and believed mad. The sentient sea serpents have their own story hinted at, as well.

Though Ship of Magic is full of action, none of the plotlines get resolved in this book. Readers who resent being left with many questions and few answers after almost 700 pages should think twice before starting, or wait until the rest of the series is out so that their suspense won't be too prolonged. But Hobb's writing draws you in and makes you care desperately about what will happen next, the mark of a terrific storyteller. --Nona Vero --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The untimely death of Old Trader Ephron Vestrit deprives his daughter Althea of her inheritance and places her ambitious brother-in-law Kyle in command of the live ship Viveca and the family fortunes. The author of the Farseer trilogy (Assassin's Apprentice, LJ 3/15/95; Royal Assassin, Bantam, 1996; Assassin's Quest, Bantam, 1997) launches a new series set in a world of sentient ships, merchant traders, ruthless pirates, dangerous treasures, seagoing dragons, and a mysterious elder race. Hobb excels in depicting complex characters; even her villains command respect, if not sympathy, for their actions. Most libraries should purchase this exotic, nonstandard fantasy.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Liveship Traders Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (February 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553575635
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553575637
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (353 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,798 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ealovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on August 3, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Ship of Magic" is a little over 800 pages long and tells a slo-o-owly developing story from the multiple viewpoints of a family of liveship traders, the liveship herself once she is awakened, plus various sea serpents, a pirate king, and other more peripheral characters--at least they're peripheral in "Ship of Magic" but this is the only the first book of a trilogy, 'The Liveship Traders.'

I've also read this author's 'Farseer Trilogy,' and once settled into one of her books, it is very hard to put down until the last page is read. I'm kicking myself because I didn't immediately order the two concluding books of this trilogy as soon as I started "Ship of Magic." If Patrick O'Brien had collaborated with Charles Dickens and written "Oliver Twist Goes to Sea in a Magical Ship," this book might have been the outcome.

All of the characters are minutely detailed and believable, even the would-be pirate king, who is a much nastier man than Gilbert and Sullivan would have him. He ends up performing glorious deeds by accident, and I wouldn't be surprised if his title turns out to be 'the Great Liberator' rather than 'King' by the end of this trilogy.

The man who does the most evil in this book is a merchant captain who believes that he alone knows the right course to steer, both for his liveship and his family. In fact, I wonder if "Billy Budd" was also an inspiration for "Ship of Magic." The relationships between the self-righteous captain, his unworldly son, and an evil Claggart-like second mate are almost pure Melville. The innocent boy is even accidentally responsible for the deaths of his shipmates, brought about when he tries to comfort a dying slave.
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Format: Hardcover
I have never read a Robin Hobb book before but I liked the cover art on this one and decided to pick it up and see what it was about. The book jacket made it sound like it would be an adventurous read and it really was.
There are several stories going on in this book: Althea's quest to regain her ship, Kennit's quest to become a king of pirates, Ronica's quest to keep her family together, the serpents' quest for who-knows-what, the mystery of Paragon, the political intrigue surrounding Bingtown and, most compelling of all, Wintrow's story. All of these narratives are interwoven into one big,compelling, un-put-downable, can't-wait-for-the-next-volume, story.
Although it would appear that Althea's is the main story, I found the saga of Wintrow and Wintrow himself the most involving aspect of this book. Ms. Hobb has created in Wintrow a likeable, tortured young man who undergoes a tempering that is wonderful and sometimes painful to watch.
I enjoyed how such unsypat! hetic characters as Kyle and Kennit were not created as simple cardboard villains, instead one is a man who truly thinks he is trying to do right for his family (no matter how obnoxious or wrongheaded he really is) and the other a man who is consumed by ambition and not a little bit of self hate.
I highly recommend this book and look forward to the rest of the series with great anticipation. I also plan to seek out Ms. Hobb's other series of books.
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By A Customer on September 16, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read one of Robin Hobb's books previously, that being Assassin's Apprentice. I quite liked it, but not enough to get the others in the Farseer series. This first book in her Liveship Traders series is a different story...it was imossible to put down, plunging the reader into a world of magic and mystery.
Hobb is not big on the action scenes, with few of her characters out for a brawl, but that matters little. The characters are the driving force of her novels, marvellously detailed and made completely believeable with their very human flaws and desires. Althea, the strongwilled young woman who walks away from the comfortable life she has known in order to win back her ship, Brashen, the essentially kind hearted sailor who seeks a better life, the mysterious carver Amber, Wintrow the young priest-in-training who is ripped away from his desired path, Kyle the ignorant and controlling captain of the Vivacia, and Vivacia herself. Hobb portrays the world around them with a wonderfully descriptive and vivid style...closing my eyes I can see the setting sun illuminating the lonely Paragon's profile, the coarse and seedy surroundings that are a sailors world, the sheer beauty and gracefulness of Vivacia...There are so many things happening within this world, and Hobb works the intricate subplots with the skill of a master weaver. 'Nuff said. If you like fantasy that is based on wonderfully real characters and compelling plot...go and get this novel. As for me, I can't wait to read the next volume of this series.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have been reading sci fi/fantasy since I was 13 (I'm now 32!) and this is by far one of the best books I have ever read.
The characters are so well defined that you empathize with them and share all that they go through. This is even more amazing because although the story is told from the point of view of several characters, you are never lost nor do you struggle with the different viewpoint. You sink right into the reality of each individual, whether it is the strong and fierce heroine or the Satrap's (ruler's) courtesan who gambles her life on her political abilities in order to create a life of her own.
The world is brilliant, with a complex social system and political intrigue that is missing from most fantasy novels. The trials and the sacrifices that the Vestrit family endure in order to hold fast to their values and their way of life is to the point of heartbreaking. However, what they achieve through their perserverence is something that fills you with wonder and awe.
This book is a must read. I have given copies to all of my friends, and their reaction is the same as mine was after finishing each book, and the series: "wow."
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