How about a dip — better yet, a dive — into the robust and complex fantasy books of Robin Hobb?
I read the first book in Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy way back in 2013. I loved the craftsmanship with which she created her fantasy world of seafaring Trader families and their sentient "liveships," her intricate plotting, and her richly developed characters. Her world is less brutal, but no less epic than those of George R. R. Martin, her colleague in the fantasy trade.
These formidable books are long, however, and while the stories were unresolved at the end of the first book, I could never commit the time required to start in on the next book.
But even though I've read (and written!) many other books in the intervening years, Hobb's characters and their stories have really stuck with me. Especially my favorite character from the first book, Ship Of Magic, the liveship Paragon.
A supporting, almost a peripheral character in the first book, Paragon is central to the plot of Mad Ship, the second installment, which I finally picked up earlier this year. The title, of course, refers to him.
Matriarch Ronica Vestrit and her Trader family face ruin when the family liveship, Vivacia (through the incompetent stewardship of her greedy, tyrannical son-in-law), falls into the hands of the notorious pirate, Kennit, who begins to bond with the impressionable young ship in alarming ways.
The Vestrit clan launches a desperate rescue mission aboard the Paragon, with seafaring heroine Althea Vestrit as second mate to the captain, Brashen Trell, disgraced and disowned son of another prominent Trader family, and a disreputable crew of Bingtown wharf rats.
Althea (to whom Vivacia had been promised until her brother-in-law took over), Brashen, and, of course, Paragon, all have something to prove.
|At a book event in 2014: Adventurers in the fantasy trade|
I'm not rooting for the pirate in this one — surprise! Kennit seemed too much like the standard, comic-opera pirate villain in the first book, although his actions are now integral to the larger plot. But all the various story arcs are interesting. (Even spoiled, insufferable Malta Vestrit, a character I cheerfully loathed in the first book, may prove to be redeemable.)
I'm so glad I finally made the time to catch up with this installment. The plots are still unresolved, but yes, I have the third book, Ship Of Destiny on order as we speak!
(Did I mention there are dragons? But we don't find out about them until Book 2, so keep reading!)