Top critical review
Needed a little more...or possibly less
on February 27, 2012
I came to The Liveship Traders series having devoured The Farseer and the Tawny Man trilogies back-to-back a few months before. I wasn't sure about the premise but after 1400 pages of Robin Hobb behind me, I felt I was in good hands. Seeing Amber's character outside of FitzChivalry's world was also a huge draw. Again, Hobb's world-imagining is wonderfully done and her plots quite intricate. Hobb surpasses almost every fantasy writer out there in terms of sheer plot development. There are twists and turns and character changes that are very realistically done. Big kudos on that front. I honestly don't know how she plans all this out. She also is amazingly consistent in linking her mythology with what has gone before in the Farseer world (and after, with the Tawny Man).
I really liked the through-story with Althea, Brashen, Amber, and Paragon. A lot. I was less interested in Malta, Reyn, and Selden (though I liked them as people immensely better in Ship of Destiny than the previous two, in which I wanted to slap Malta on several occasions.) The sections with the Satrap seemed particularly repetitive, though. We get it. He's a nasty guy and a spoiled brat. Let's move on. The Ronica/Keffria story was good. But I didn't care about the sea serpents one whit, and in fact, I generally skimmed or skipped those sections entirely. Yeah, yeah, yeah--toxins and tangles and writhing and confusion. Next! At least those sections were fairly short. I really disliked Kennit (and I'm supposed to) but it made it hard to spend that amount of time with him. I get that he was abused as a child, but the sheer ugliness and evil that he perpetuates on everyone around him made him wholly unsympathetic. And I felt like it wasn't resolved particularly well, either.
I hate to say it, but certain sections of this book really dragged for me. I found myself literally sighing as I pushed through to get to next section where the scene would change to a different cast of characters. Surprisingly, really, because I didn't have this problem with other Hobb books that I've read. (I wonder how much of that is due to 3rd person narration that switches locations/plots versus the Farseer/Tawny Man books in which Fitz narrates in the first person, and therefore the plot is much more tightly tied to his presence. Not sure.)
I agree with the others who commented that it seems liked the ending came too quickly, that the extremely complex situations that were spun out, were suddenly wrapped up a bit simply. Though it seemed more to me that perhaps we were meant to understand we were leaving the story before it's done. There will be more building and rebuilding that will go on. But this portion of the story-telling is complete. I would definitely liked to have seen more with Althea at the end, however. And something more of Kennit's luck turned. Or at least some fallout since now there are enough--Althea, Brashen, Wintrow, Etta, etc.--who are no longer taken in by his myth.
In short, I would have liked more in some places, and a lot less in others. Perhaps she needed a more aggressive editor? I still give it 3 stars because despite its faults, it is a decent read. But unlike the other trilogies, I don't think that I'll be returning to them or rereading them at any point. And I won't likely recommend them my other fantasy reading friends--at least not if they haven't read the Farseer/Tawny Man novels. Now those are some great books!