The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders Series #2)

The Mad Ship (Liveship Traders Series #2)

by Robin Hobb


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Demonstrating world-building finesse, Robin Hobb begins the climatic story of a seafaring clan and its tangled destiny. Though expected to inherit her family's newly quickened liveship, Althea Vestrit loses the honor to her scheming brother-in-law, who plans to use it as a slave ship. The ruthless pirate Captain Kennit also sees a captured liveship as his key to success. Soon Althea is forced to fight both men to regain the animate, intelligent liveship, her family's most treasured possession.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780006498865
Publisher: Voyager
Publication date: 02/28/2008
Series: Liveship Traders Series , #2
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Robin Hobb is the author of the Farseer Trilogy, the Liveship Traders Trilogy, the Tawny Man Trilogy, the Soldier Son Trilogy, and the Rain Wilds Chronicles. She has also written as Megan Lindholm. She is a native of Washington State.

Read an Excerpt

Althea longed for a fresh-water bath. As she toiled up the companionway to the deck, every muscle in her body ached, and her head pounded from the thick air of the aft hold. At least her task was done. She'd go to her stateroom, wash with a wet towel, change her clothes and perhaps even nap for a bit. And then she'd go to confront Kyle. She'd put it off long enough, and the longer she waited, the more uncomfortable she became. She'd get it over with and then damn well live with whatever it brought down on her.

"Mistress Althea." She had no more than gained the deck before Mild confronted her. "Cap'n requires you." The ship's boy grinned at her, half-apologetic, half-relishing being the bearer of such tidings.

"Very well, Mild," she said quietly. Very well, her thoughts echoed to herself. No wash, no clean clothes and no nap before the confrontation. Very well. She took a moment to smooth her hair back from her face and to tuck her blouse back into her trousers. Prior to her task, they had been her cleanest work clothes. Now the coarse cotton of the blouse stuck to her back and neck with her own sweat, while the trousers were smudged with oakum and tar from working in the close quarters of the hold. She knew her face was dirty, too. Well. She hoped Kyle would enjoy his advantage. She stooped down as if to re-fasten her shoe, but instead placed her hand flat on the wood of the deck. For an instant she closed her eyes and let the strength of the Vivacia flow through her palm. "Oh, ship," she whispered as softly as if she prayed. "Help me stand up to him." Then she stood, her resolve firm once more.

As she crossed the twilit deck to the captain's quarters, not an eye would meet hers. Every hand was suddenly very busy or simply looking off in another direction. She refused to glance back to see if they watched after her. Instead she kept her shoulders squared and her head up as she marched to her doom.

She rapped sharply at the door of the captain's quarters and waited for his gruff reply. When it came she entered, and then stood still, letting her eyes adjust to the yellow lantern light. In that instant, she felt a sudden wash of homesickness. The intense longing was not for any shoreside house, but rather for this room as it once had been. Memories dizzied her. Her father's oilskins had hung on that hook, and the smell of his favorite rum had flavored the air. Her own hammock he had rigged in that corner when he had first allowed her to start living aboard the Vivacia, that he might better watch over her. She knew a moment of anger as her eyes took in Kyle's clutter overlaying the familiar hominess of these quarters. A nail in his boot had left a pattern of scars across the polished floorboards. Ephron Vestrit had never left charts out, and would never have tolerated the soiled shirt flung across the chair back. He did not approve of an untidy deck anywhere on his ship, and that included his own quarters. His son-in-law Kyle apparently did not share those values.

Althea pointedly stepped over a discarded pair of trousers to stand before the captain at his table. Kyle let her stand there for a few moments while he continued to peruse some notation on the chart. A notation in her father's own precise hand, Althea noticed, and took strength from that even as her anger burned at the thought that he had access to the family's charts. A Trader family's charts were among their most guarded possessions. How else could one safeguard one's swiftest routes through the Inside Passage, and one's trading ports in lesser-known villages? Still, her father had entrusted these charts to Kyle; it was not up to her to question his decision.

Kyle continued to ignore her, but she refused to rise to his bait. She stood silent and patient, but did not let his apparent disinterest fluster her. After a time he lifted his eyes to regard her. Their blueness was as unlike her father's steady black eyes as his unruly blond hair was unlike her father's smooth black queue. Once more she wondered with distaste what had ever possessed her older sister to desire such a man. His Chalcedean blood showed in his ways as much as in his body. She tried to keep her disdain from showing on her face, but her control was wearing thin. She'd been too long at sea with this man.

This last voyage had been interminable. Kyle had muddled what should have been a simple two-month turnaround trip along Chalced's coast into a five-month trading trek full of unnecessary stops and marginally profitable trade runs. She was convinced all of it was an effort on his part to show her father what a sly trader he could be. For herself, she had not been impressed. At Tusk he had stopped and taken on pickled sea-duck eggs, always an uncertain cargo, and barely made dock in Brigtown in time to sell them off before they went rotten. In Brigtown, he'd taken on bales of cotton, not just enough to fill the empty space in the holds but enough to make a partial deck load as well. Althea had had to bite her tongue and watch her crew take their chances as they scrambled over and around the heavy bales, and then they'd had a late gale that had soaked and most likely ruined the portion of the load on deck. She hadn't even asked him what the profit had been, if any, when he'd stopped to auction it off in Dursay. Dursay had been their last port. The wine casks had yet again been shifted about to allow for a whim cargo. Now, in addition to the wines and brandies that had comprised their original cargo, the hold was stuffed with crates of comfer nuts. Kyle had held forth endlessly on the good price they'd bring, both for the fragrant oil from their kernels for soap and the lovely yellow dye that could be made from their husks. Althea thought that if he crowed once more about the extra profit this would wring from the voyage, she'd throttle him. But self-congratulation was not in the gaze he turned on her. It was cold as seawater, lit with tiny glints of anger.

He neither smiled nor bid her be seated. Instead he simply demanded. "What were you doing in the aft hold?"

Someone had run to the captain and tattled. She kept her voice steady. "I re-stowed the cargo."

"You did."

It was a statement, almost an accusation. But it was not a question, so she did not need to make any answer. Instead, she stood very straight under that piercing gaze. She knew he expected her to babble out explanations and excuses, as Keffria would have. But she was not her sister, nor his wife. He suddenly slammed his palm down on the table before him, and though the sudden impact made her flinch, she still did not speak. She watched him waiting for her to say something, and then felt an odd sense of victory when his temper snapped.

"Did you presume to tell the men to change how that cargo was stowed?"

She spoke very softly, very calmly. "No. I did not. I did the work myself. My father has taught me that aboard a ship, one must see what needs doing, and do it. That is what I have done. I arranged the casks as father would have had them done, were he here. Those casks are now as every shipment of wine has been stowed since I was ten years old, bung up and bilge free, fore and aft, ends wedged off in the wings. They are secure, and if they have not already been spoiled by jostling, they will be marketable when we get to Bingtown."

His cheeks grew pink. Althea wondered how Keffria could stand a man whose cheeks turned pink when he was angry. She braced herself. When Kyle spoke, his voice was not raised, but the longing to shout the words was clear in his clipped accent.

"Your father is not here, Althea. That is precisely the point. I am the master of this vessel, and I gave commands as to how I wanted that cargo stowed. Yet again you have gone behind my back and countermanded those orders. I can't have this interference between me and my crew. You sow discord."

She spoke quietly. "I acted on my own, by myself. I gave the crew no orders at all, nor did I even speak of what I intended to do. I have done nothing to come between you and the crew." She clamped her jaws shut before she could say more. She would not tell him that what stood between him and his crew was his own lack of expertise. The sailors who would have gone to their deaths willingly for her father now spoke openly in the forecastle of finding another vessel when next they shipped out. Kyle was in danger of destroying the hand-picked crew that her father had spent the last decade assembling.

Kyle looked furious that she would contradict him. "It is enough that you went against my orders. That is all it takes to challenge my authority. Your bad example on this ship makes the crew restless. Then I am forced to clamp down the discipline. You should be ashamed for what you bring down on them. But no. You don't care one whit for that. You're above the captain. Althea Vestrit is probably above almighty Sa! You've shown the entire crew your complete disregard for my orders. Were you truly a sailor, I'd make an example of you, one that would prove my orders are the only orders on this ship. But you're nothing but a spoiled merchant's brat. I'll treat you as such, and spare the flesh of your back. But only until you cross me again. Take this warning to heart, girl. I am captain of this vessel, and my word on this ship is law."

Althea did not speak, but neither did she look aside. She met his gaze levelly and kept as much expression off her face as she could. The pink spread to Kyle's forehead. He took a breath and reached for control. He speared her with his eyes. "And what are you, Althea?"

She had not expected such a question. Accusations and rebukes she could deal with silently. But in asking her a question, he demanded an answer, and she knew it would be construed as open defiance. So be it. "I am the owner of this vessel," she said with as much dignity as she could muster.

"Wrong!" This time he did shout. But in an instant he had mastered himself. He leaned forward on the table and near spat the words at her. "You are the daughter of the owner. And even were you the owner, it wouldn't make a whit of difference. It's not the owner who commands the ship, it's the captain. You're not the captain, you're not the mate. You aren't even a proper sailor. All you do is take a stateroom to yourself that should be the second mate's, and do only the chores it suits you to do. The owner of this vessel is Ephron Vestrit, your father. He is the one who gave the Vivacia over to my command. If you cannot respect me for who I am, then respect your father's choice to captain his ship."

"But for my age, he would have made me captain. I know the Vivacia. I should be her captain."

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Althea regretted them. It was all the opening he had needed, this voicing of what they both knew was true.

"Wrong again. You should be at home, married off to some fancy boy as spoiled as yourself. You haven't the faintest idea of how to captain a vessel. You believe that because your father has allowed you to play at sailoring you know how to command a vessel. You've come to believe you're destined to captain your father's ship. You're wrong. Your father only brought you aboard because he had no sons of his own. He as much as told me so, when Wintrow was born. Were not the Vivacia a liveship, requiring a family member aboard, I'd never have tolerated your pretenses for a moment. But bear this in mind. A member of the Vestrit family is all this ship requires; it needn't be you. If this ship demands a Vestrit aboard her, then she can bear one that has Haven for a surname. My sons share as much of your sister's blood as mine, they're as much Vestrit as Haven. And the next time this ship leaves Bingtown, one of my boys will take your place on her. You'll be left ashore."

Althea could feel she had gone white. The man had no idea what he was saying to her, had no idea of the depth of his threat. It only proved he had no true concept of what a liveship was. He should have never been allowed authority over the Vivacia. If only her father had been well, he would have seen that.

Something of both her despair and defiance must have shown in her face, for Kyle Haven's mouth grew tauter. She wondered if he fought down a smile as he added, "You are confined to your quarters for the remainder of this voyage. And now you are dismissed."

She stood her ground. As well have it out then, now that the lines were drawn. "You have declared that I am not even a sailor aboard this vessel. Very well, then. If that is so, then I am not yours to command. And I have no idea why you fancy that you will command the Vivacia on her next voyage. When we return to Bingtown, I have every expectation that my father will have recovered his health and will resume his command. And hold it, until such time as ship and command are both mine."

He fixed her with a flat stare. "Do you really think so, Althea?"

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From the Publisher

"With [Hobb's] hands on the wheel, high fantasy is going to sea magnificently." —-Booklist Starred Review

George R. R. Martin

I'm absolutely astonished -- this is even better than the Assassin books.I didn't think that was possible.
— Author of A Clash of Kings

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Mad Ship (Liveship Traders Series #2) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 108 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a refreshing change of pace from Robin Hobbs previous series The Farseer Trilogy. While you do not necessarily have to read the previous trilogy to enjoy this one, they do take place in the same world and it wouldn't hurt. This book starts of the Liveship Traders trilogy in a much more positive and fantastic way then Hobbs other works. The difference in story telling is drastic and I found this book to be much less dull and depressing then The Farseer Trilogy. I strongly recommend you give this series a shot even if you do not enjoy previous works by Robin Hobb.
Quilber More than 1 year ago
I read the follow up series first and enjoyed them enough to want more from Robin Hobb, so I found this series. I would highly recommend these books to all fantasy/dragon story readers.
Narilka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A solid middle book for a trilogy. Mad Ship picks up right where Ship of Magic left off. The characters continue to develop and there were a couple surprises. The stories are starting to tie together more. It will be good to see how it all ends.I do agree with another reviewer in that it seems the middle of the book gets bogged down a little.
littlegeek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Man, I'm really enjoying this series. When the connections between the sea serpents, the dragons, the liveships and the Rain Wild began to dawn on me, I just got a chill up my back. I love how Hobb slowly develops these fascinating ideas. Such detailed and intricate world building.Another thing at which Hobb excels is character. All the characters are well drawn, but at the same time, they change over time according to their circumstances and situations in ways that ring true to actual human beings. This is a rare, rare thing in any form of fiction, and I can't praise it highly enough.I immediately picked up the next volume in the series and I'm loving it as well. The only downside I have found with these books is they seem to bog down somewhere in the middle, as characters suddenly seem to want to talk everything to death or endlessly argue or psychoanalyse each other. It's almost as if Hobb doesn't trust the reader to get everything that is going on, so for the slow readers she takes a break midway through to explain it all. You've already shown it, just keep going with the story.
willowcove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the same universe as the 'Farseer' books, and just as good. A unique twist of where the ships' powers come from.
tronella on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
o/ I am over halfway through this series now! Hooray. Pirates! Dragons! What's not to like? I'm really liking the way the history of the Rain Wilds is being slowly revealed, too.In the middle of this book there are a couple of very rape-filled chapters, which I was fortunately warned about in advance by Amy. So... you may wish to take that into account. I found them quite disturbing.
abatishko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I enjoyed this book very much, I thought it fell just a little short of the first book in the series. Even so, it was nice to see some of the characters change and grow in this book. There was also a good number of unexpected turns to the plot. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this series gets all wrapped up in the third book. 4.5/5
littlebookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A phenomenal follow-up to Ship of Magic. The characters really grow in this one, and that stood out to me more than anything else. Hobb's writing is excellent.
xicanti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The plot thickens in the second volume of The Liveship Traders. Althea, Brashen and Amber refit Paragon as part of an attempt to regain Vivacia. Kennit's kingly aspirations move forward as he works to sway both Wintrow and Vivacia to his cause. The Vestrits become more firmly entangled with the Rain Wild Traders. And Satrap Cosgo's diplomatic voyage to Bingtown seems destined to begin a war.This was a fantastic book with tons going on at all times. Hobb excels at developing complex, multi-dimensional characters who grow as their lives change, and they're really what drives this story. Amidst the vivid sea battles and political upheaval that provide the action, it's really the characters that shine forth and draw the reader in. Their storylines intersect and diverge beautifully as the book progresses.I still found the writing a little loose in places, and the dialogue is occasionally quite stilted, but by neither of these things seemed to matter as much as they did in the first volume. The story is built up so well that it pushes technical concerns to the background.I highly recommend this, but really encourage you to read Ship of Magic first. This is pretty much a direct continuation of the story; I don't think it would have the same impact unless you've also read the first volume.
rocalisa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me a long time to read this - a month - and I really loved it. The growing "big picture" is fascination and more and more of the pieces are falling into place to make the mysteries of the first book seem much clearer. I knew the liveships had a link to the dragons, but I certainly never figured out exactly what it was.
jedisluzer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robin Hobb is my favorite fantasy author these days, and this is my favorite of her books. It is also the first one I read. The last quarter of this book is truly thrilling, as we see the plot come together into something that startles. I could read the scene where Tintaglia hatches over and over.
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Book 2 and if book 1 was complicated book 2 becomes even more so, looking forward to book 3
PollyBennett More than 1 year ago
So much detail, changes, and excitement. People you love, and, people you love to hate. I love this series, and I'm starting the final book in this trilogy next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good in perts dragged in others
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deesy58 More than 1 year ago
Too many story lines/narrative perspectives make the story too convoluted. Most of the characters are unappealing, wallowing in self-pity or reveling in evil. None of the characters seems able to rise above themselves to act in what might be called a "heroic" manner. The book is very tedious and easy to set down, making it a long, boring read. The first book of the trilogy was bad enough, but this second book is much worse. I found myself skipping paragraphs, then groups of paragraphs, then entire pages. Finally, I simply abandoned the book and decided that I will not read the third book of the trilogy, either.
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I enjoyed this series. It's creative and interesting. Worth my time!