The Liveship Traders Trilogy
After thoroughly enjoying the Farseer Trilogy I was pretty excited about reading more of the books that take place in the Realm of the Elderings created by Robin Hobb. My enthusiasm was quickly dampened when I discovered that Ship of Magic was full of bratty kids, over-bearing parents, and a heavy dose of family squabbles. Normally fantasy literature is an escape from such mundane and stressful topics but not so with the first book of the series. Luckily some interesting magic systems and concepts intrigued me enough to continue on...
Despite the fact that this series is within the same world as the Farseer Trilogy it takes place at a different locale and the magic systems are completely different. The characters and concepts from the Six Duchies locale are just minor references and this trilogy stands completely on its own. Centered around liveships, living vessels built from the mysterious and rare wizardwood, the series covers the exploration and discovery of what is really going on with this magic. The liveships are extremely rare and they are passed down from generation to generation within the same family even incorporating the essence of the prior generations within the ship. It is a unique concept and the series follows one of those families, the Vestrits, as it is slowly discovered that not all is quite right with the manner that this odd magic is being used.
Book one is 80% setup and 20% interesting fantasy but book two, Mad Ship, really leverages all that context and springboards the story forward. The details of this new locale and some key revelations about the fate of the extinct ancient dragons dominate the story telling and really keep things entertaining. Once the facts start to be revealed, you will not look at the liveships in the same way anymore. The family fighting of the first book is left behind and the various threads all start to come together until the third book, Ship of Destiny, brings about the end of an Age and the start a new one.
All in all it is unique and interesting fantasy fare and well worth reading. Since many of the main characters are female the audiobooks are narrated by a female, Anne Flosnik, and unfortunately her style takes some getting used to. Her pace is slow and there are many listeners over on Audible that complain about her. While she is not my favorite narrator I found her delivery of the series to be decent and she did not dampen my enjoyment of the series.