Mad Ship (Liveship Traders Series #2)

Mad Ship (Liveship Traders Series #2)

by Robin Hobb


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“A truly extraordinary saga . . . The characterizations are consistently superb, and [Hobb] animates everything with love for and knowledge of the sea.”—Booklist

As the ancient tradition of Bingtown’s Old Traders slowly erodes under the cold new order of a corrupt ruler, the Vestrits anxiously await the return of their liveship—a rare magic ship carved from sentient wizardwood, which bonds the ships mystically with those who sail them. And Althea Vestrit waits even more avidly, living only to reclaim the ship as her lost inheritance and captain her on the high seas.
But the Vivacia has been seized by the ruthless pirate captain Kennit, who holds Althea’s nephew and his father hostage. Althea and her onetime sea mate Brashen resolve to liberate the liveship—but their plan may prove more dangerous than leaving the Vivacia in Kennit’s ambitious grasp.
Praise for Robin Hobb and the Liveship Traders Trilogy
“Fantasy as it ought to be written . . . Robin Hobb’s books are diamonds in a sea of zircons.”—George R. R. Martin
“A major work of high fantasy, reading like a cross between Tolkien and Patrick O’Brian . . . one of the finest fantasy sagas to bridge the millennium.”Publishers Weekly
“Rich, complex . . . [Hobb’s] plotting is complex but tightly controlled, and her descriptive powers match her excellent visual imagination. But her chief virtue is that she delineates character extremely well.”Interzone

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553575644
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/29/2000
Series: Liveship Traders Series , #2
Edition description: REPRINT
Pages: 850
Sales rank: 52,082
Product dimensions: 6.88(w) x 4.22(h) x 1.36(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

The Liveship Ophelia

Althea's watch was over; her time was now her own. She was tired, but pleasantly so. The spring afternoon had been almost balmy. It was rare for the season to be this kindly and Althea had enjoyed it. The Ophelia herself had been in an expansive mood all day. The liveship had made the sailors' tasks easy, moving northward toward home with a will. She was a ponderous old cog, now heavy with goods from a successful trading journey. The early evening wind was gentle rather than brisk, but Ophelia's sails caught every breath of it. She slid effortlessly through the waves. Althea leaned on the forward rail, watching the beginning of the sunset off the port bow. Home was only a few days away.

"Mixed feelings?" Ophelia asked her with a throaty chuckle. The buxom figurehead gave her a knowing glance over her bared shoulder.

"You know you are right," Althea conceded. "About everything. Nothing in my life makes sense anymore." She began to tick her confusions off on her fingers. "Here I am, serving as first on a liveship merchant vessel, about the highest post a sailor can aspire to. Captain Tenira has promised me a ship's ticket out of this. It's all the proof I need that I am a competent sailor. With that credential, I can go home and press Kyle to keep his word, and give me back my ship. Yet, oddly enough, I feel guilty about it. You have made it so easy. I worked three times as hard when I was serving as ship's boy on the Reaper. It just doesn't seem right."

"I could make your tasks harder if you wish," Ophelia offered teasingly. "I could develop a list, or start taking on water or . . ."

"You wouldn't do that," Althea told her with certainty. "You're too proud of how well you sail. No. I do not wish my tasks to be harder. Nor do I regret my months aboard the Reaper. If nothing else, they proved to me that I could scramble. Serving aboard that hulk made me a better sailor, and showed me a side of sailing I had never seen before then. It wasn't a waste of time. It was time away from the Vivacia; that is where the rub is. Time lost forever." Althea's voice trailed away.

"Oh, my dear, that's so tragic." Ophelia's voice was full of solicitude. A moment later, she went on sarcastically, "The only way it could be worse would be if you wasted still more time mooning about it. Althea. This is not like you. Look forward, not back. Correct your course and go on. You can't undo yesterday's journey."

"I know," Althea said with a rueful laugh. "I know that what I am doing now is the right thing to do. It just seems strange that it is so easy and pleasant. A beautiful ship, a lively crew, a good captain . . ."

"A very handsome first mate," Ophelia interjected.

"He is that," Althea admitted easily. "And I appreciate all Grag has done for me. I know he says he is enjoying the chance to read and relax, but it must be tedious to pretend he is ill so I can have the chance to fill his position. I have a lot of reasons to be grateful to him."

"Odd. You haven't shown him that gratitude." For the first time, a touch of chill crept into the ship's voice.

"Ophelia," Althea groaned. "Please, let's not get into that again. You don't want me to pretend feelings for Grag that I simply don't have, do you?"

"I simply can't understand why you don't have those feelings, that's all. Are you sure you do not deceive yourself? Look at my Grag. He is handsome, charming, witty, kind and a gentleman. Not to mention that he is born of a Bingtown Trader family and stands to inherit a sizable fortune. A fortune that includes a magnificent liveship, I might add. What more could you be looking for in a man?"

"He is all those things and more. I conceded that to you days ago. I find no faults with Grag Tenira. Or with his magnificent liveship." Althea smiled at the ship.

"Then the problem must be with you," Ophelia announced inexorably. "Why aren't you attracted to him?"

Althea bit her tongue for a moment. When she spoke, her voice was reasonable. "I am, Ophelia. In a way. Nevertheless, there are so many other things going on in my life that I cannot allow myself . . . I just do not have time to think about things like that. You know what I face when we get to Bingtown. I need to make amends with my mother, if that is possible. And there is another 'magnificent liveship' that occupies my thoughts. I have to persuade my mother to support me when I try to take the Vivacia back from Kyle. She heard him vow before Sa that if I could but prove myself a sailor, he would give me the ship. However rashly he spoke, I intend to make him keep that vow. I know it is going to be an ugly struggle to force him to surrender Vivacia to me. I need to keep my mind focused on that."

"Don't you think Grag could be a powerful ally in such a struggle?"

"Would you think it honorable of me to encourage his advances only to use him as a tool to get my ship back?" Althea's voice was cool now.

Ophelia laughed low. "Ah. He has made advances, then. I was beginning to worry about the boy. So. Tell me all about it." She quirked an eyebrow at Althea.

"Ship!" Althea warned her, but after a moment, she could not help joining her laughter. "Are you going to pretend to me that you don't already know everything that goes on aboard you?"

"Umm," Ophelia mused. "Perhaps I know most of what happens in the staterooms and belowdecks. But not all." She paused, then pried, "That was a very long silence inside his quarters yesterday. Did he try to kiss you yesterday?"

Althea sighed. "No. Of course not. Grag is far too well bred for that."

"I know. More's the pity." Ophelia shook her head. As if she had forgotten to whom she was speaking, she added, "The boy needs a bit more spark to him. Nice is fine, but there's a time when a man should be a bit of a rogue, to get what he wants." She cocked her head at Althea. "Like Brashen Trell, for instance."

Althea groaned. The ship had wormed his name out of her a week ago, and had given her no peace since then. If she was not demanding to know what was wrong with Grag, and why didn't Althea fancy him, then she was pestering her for the sordid details of her brief liaison with Brashen. Althea did not want to think about the man. Her feelings on that topic were too confusing. The more she decided she was finished with him, the more he intruded into her thoughts. She kept thinking of all the witty things she should have said at their last parting. He had been so rude when she had not kept a rendezvous she knew was unwise. The man had assumed too much, far too soon. He didn't deserve a moment of her thoughts, let alone dwelling on him. But despite her waking disdain for him, he intruded into her dreams. In her dreams, the poignancy of his gentle strength seemed a safe harbor worth seeking. In her dreams, she reminded herself, setting her teeth. In her waking hours, she knew he was no safe harbor, but a whirlpool of foolish impulses that would draw her to her doom.

She had been silent too long; Ophelia was watching her face with a knowing look. Abruptly Althea stood straight and put a small smile on her face. "I think I'll go and see Grag before I turn in. There are a few questions I need answered."

"Um," Ophelia purred, pleased. "Take your time asking them, my dear. The Tenira men think deeply before they act, but when they do act . . ." She lifted both her eyebrows at Althea. "You might not even remember Trell's name afterward," she suggested.

"Believe me. I'm already doing my best to forget it."

Althea was relieved to hurry away from her. Sometimes it was wonderful to spend part of the evening sitting and talking with the ship. The wizardwood figurehead incorporated many generations of Tenira sailors, but women had formed her first and deepest impressions. Ophelia retained a female perspective on life. It was not the fragile helplessness that now passed for femininity in Bingtown, but the independent determination that had distinguished the first women Traders. The advice she offered Althea was often startling to her, yet it frequently reinforced views Althea had privately held for years. Althea had not had many women friends. The tales Ophelia had shared with her had made her realize that her dilemmas were not as unique as she had believed. At the same time, Ophelia's brazen discussions of Althea's most intimate problems both delighted and horrified her. The ship seemed to accept Althea's independence. She encouraged Althea to follow her heart, but also held her responsible for the decisions she had made. It was heady to have such a friend.

She hesitated outside the door to Grag's cabin. She paused to straighten her clothing and hair. She had been relieved to abandon the boy's guise she had worn aboard the Reaper. On this ship, the crew knew her name. Althea Vestrit had to uphold the honor of her family. So although she dressed practically, in heavy cotton fabric, the trousers she wore were closer to being a split skirt. She had bound her hair back out of the way, but not tarred it into a queue. The laced-up blouse that she tucked carefully into her trousers even had a touch of embroidery on it.

She felt a pleasant anticipation at the thought of seeing Grag. She enjoyed sitting and talking with him. There was a gratifying little tension of awareness between them. Grag found her attractive and was undaunted by her competency. He seemed impressed by it. It was a new and flattering experience for Althea. She wished she could be certain that was all she felt. Despite her fling with Brashen--despite living aboard ship with men for years--in some areas she was very inexperienced. She was not sure if she was attracted to Grag for himself, or simply because he seemed to be fascinated with her. Surely, this was just a harmless flirtation between them. What more could it be, between two strangers flung together by chance?

She took a breath and knocked.

"Enter." Grag's voice was muffled.

She found him sitting up on his bunk, his face swathed in bandaging. There was a strong scent of cloves in the air. At the sight of her, a welcoming glint came into his blue eyes. As she shut the door behind her, he pulled the wrappings off his jaw and let them drop gratefully. The pretense of the bandages had left his hair tousled like a boy's. She grinned at him. "So. How's the toothache?"

"Convenient." He stretched, rolling his wide shoulders, then made a show of flinging himself back on his bunk. "I can't remember when I last had this much time to myself." He swung his legs up onto his bunk and crossed them at the ankle.

"You're not getting bored?"

"No. For any sailor, idle time is too much of a novelty. We always find a way to fill it." He fished around at the edge of his bunk and came up with a handful of ropework. He unrolled it on his lap to reveal a fancifully knotted mat. The intricate pattern had created a lacy effect from the stout twine he had used to create it. It was hard to believe such a delicate design came from his work-scarred fingers.

Althea touched the edge of it. "Beautiful." Her fingers traced the pattern of knotted twine. "My father could take an empty wine bottle, and some twine, and create this wonderful pattern of knots over the glass. It looked like flowers, or snowflakes. . . . He always promised he'd teach me how to do it, but we never found the time." The gaping sense of loss that she had believed she had mastered overwhelmed her again. She turned away from him abruptly and stared at the wall.

Grag was silent for a moment. Then he offered quietly, "I could teach you, if you wanted."

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

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

Customer Reviews

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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!