The Liveship Traders trilogy is an epic piece of storytelling by Robin Hobb. I was completely enthralled by all three books. Despite how long and complex this story is, there are very few slow, boring parts. I even enjoyed the discourse of the sea serpents (I'll admit I'm a very patient reader). The first book, Ship of Magic, was my favorite because of the way in which the story unfolded quickly and unexpectedly. Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny were slower to develop and were more predictable but were excellent nevertheless.
However, I have some criticism. Stop here and come back later if you haven't finished the series.
The character of Kennit was flawed in my opinion. Throughout the story, he oscillates between being a scheming, greedy, cutthroat pirate and a wise, gentle philanthropist. You never know whether you should hate him or love him. Will he eventually fall into the flames of a moral abyss? Or will he ascend as a selfless hero? Well, in the end, he's a raping, malicious thug consumed by his primal lust and abused childhood. I expected him to die a harrowing, morbid death to pay for his evil deeds. Instead, he dies rather instantly and stupidly by accidentally taking a sword for the Satrap while trying to steal him back from the Jamaillians. Worse still, his name becomes honored as the sage king who sacrificed himself. Boo!
Just as bad is the role of Kyle Haven. He's a controlling tyrant who blames everyone else for the consequences of his own stupid, greedy decisions. His son Wintrow understandably hates him and never thinks twice when Kennit exiles him in chains. But why didn't Kennit just kill him? Why leave him on that island with his mother? Well, you would think it's because Hobb is saving him for a critical cog in the plotline, but what happens? Inexplicably, Kennit's mother takes him with her to "the showdown", and then while all the fighting is going on, he gets killed incidentally by indiscriminate enemy arrows. Pardon the pun, but what was the point? Moreover, throughout the second and third books, Malta (a teenager and the only one who loves Kyle) dreads and grieves over the unknown fate of her father, but she never reunites with him, and when she learns of his death, she callously shrugs it off and goes about her business of deftly negotiating a truce between the warring factions. Weird.
One more picky point. Throughout the story, the Rain Wilders are depicted as being so grotesque they have to wear veils and gloves to not shock others. But at the end, Reyn and Malta are depicted as "exotic", with their scales being considered attractive and the Jamaillians taking up fashion that mimics their look. Strange?? It never was clear to me why the Rain Wilders had to be scaly, anyway.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride through this adventure, and I liked the way it all settled out in the "D-day" episode. I think the Liveship Traders is better than the Farseer trilogy (which had quite a wimpy ending).