Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb

I write this review, minutes after finishing Ship of Magic. It’s just turned midnight on a Sunday night, I enjoy a cup of peppermint tea and wonder to myself, “How important is tomorrow’s class? Could I start The Mad Ship now? Do I need sleep tonight” Unfortunately the answers to those questions seem to be very important; yes, but I shouldn’t; and probably, so I’ll leave The Mad Ship for another day.

The Ship of Magic was my first taste of Robin Hobb. I’d heard smashing reviews from HiuGregg, and Sharade’s non stop gushing over Hobb. I fully expected this book not to live up to the hype. I had high expectations to say the least. Now, having finished the book, I have to say it was absolutely amazing!


Wizardwood, the most precious commodity in the world, comes only from the Rain Wilds. But only a liveship can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain Wild River, and liveships are hard to come by. They quicken only when three family members from successive generations have died upon their deck.

The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening: Althea Vestrit waits for the ship that she loves more than anything in the world to awaken. But her dream of taking her father’s place at Vivacia’s helm is not to be, for her family have other plans…

And the dark, charming pirate Kennit also lusts after such a ship: he well knows the power of wizardwood and has plans of his own…


Characters are something Hobb does amazingly well. There are a lot of characters across Ship of Magic, but I had no difficulty keeping track of where they were or what they were doing. Hobb writes it such a way that you can see and understand – despite disagreeing with them – the characters motivations throughout the book.

I won’t go into too much details about the specifics of each individual character here, because there is no way I can explain it in a way to do them proud, so I’ll summarise with this. Hobb’s characters show amazing development throughout the book, some you will love, some you will hate, but you get to see the reasoning behind their actions and watch them evolve over the course of this book.

Hobb has a very diverse cast of young and old, male and female characters, with different backgrounds and upbringings. I had a great time watching characters clash and connect with one and other


Again, I feel like I can’t explain the plot well without giving away spoilers. Unlike a few character based novels I’ve read recently, it does not feel like Hobb uses the plot exclusively as a device to change the characters, but draws up an interesting story as well. It isn’t a fast paced story, not by any stretch of the imagination, more of a slow burn, but it is enjoyable all the way through.

Other Thoughts

Ship of Magic is the first book in Liveship Traders, and book 4 in Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings. The Liveship Traders series can be read before the first 3 books (the Farseer Trilogy) and does not feature the same characters as the rest of Hobb’s series. Sharade has also written a post about why people should not skip Liveship Traders when reading the Realm of the Elderlings. If you’re unsure of whether or not you want to read this series I strongly recommend you both pick up Ship of Magic, and take a look at Sharade’s post.

This is my first ever Hobb book, and I absolutely loved it! It’s probably one of my favourite books I’ve read this year, and I’ve heard the series only gets better. I will warn you, this is part 1 of 3 of a much larger story, and you will probably want to move on to the rest of the trilogy as soon as you finish. I know I did.


This books is probably best for people who like:

  • Character driven fantasy
  • Slower books
  • Multiple POVs
  • Epic length novels
  • Reading a long series
  • Characters they can connect with
  • Female POV characters

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