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Publisher's Summary

Bingtown is a hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships---rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. The fortunes of one of Bingtown's oldest families rest on the newly awakened liveship Vivacia. For Althea Vestrit, the ship is her rightful legacy unjustly denied her---a legacy she will risk anything to reclaim.

For Althea's young nephew Wintrow, wrenched from his religious studies and forced to serve aboard ship, Vivacia is a life sentence. But the fate of the Vestrit family---and the ship---may ultimately lie in the hands of an outsider. The ruthless pirate Kennit seeks a way to seize power over all the denizens of the Pirate Isles...and the first step of his plan requires him to capture his own liveship and bend it to his will.

©1999 Robin Hobb (P)2010 Tantor

Critic Reviews

“The characterizations are consistently superb.... Kudos to the author and encore!” ( Booklist, Starred Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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Something altogether new

I have read a lot of fantasy in my time and it is rare to come across a story that is truly original. The world Robin Hobb has created in this series is unlike any I've seen, the magic is subtle and the characters are alive. After reading the Farseer trilogy (also by Robin Hobb), I couldn't wait to get my hands on more of her books. This one was as good, if not better. The characters Robin creates are real people, they don't always behave the way you expect them to, they make mistakes and they evolve based on what has happened to them. None of the characters are completely good or completely evil, and they don't fit into classic stereotypes.
This series is actually placed in the same world as the Farseer trilogy and there are a few subtle ties to that story (which is fun if you've read it). If you find you like Robin Hobb's style, you should really consider listening to her works in order. Each trilogy stands alone, but is made better if read in the right order. Start with the Farseer trilogy, next is the Liveship Traders, then the Tawny Man, and finally the Rainwild chronicles. If on the other hand, you are only going to read one this one. It is impossible to stop listening until you've reached the end.

34 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • Stan
  • Lakewood, Ohio, United States
  • 10-20-12

Takes a little getting used to

The story is excellent, many unique elements that keep driving little mysteries throughout the story. Interesting characters, no all of whom are human. The narration takes some getting used to, her voice is slow and occasionally ponderous, This is the first book that I listened to at 1.5 speed, and I found it didn't lose any comprehension at the faster speed. I'm looking forward to the next two in the series.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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The Best of The Best

This is my favorite Fantasy Book by my favorite fantasy writer of my favorite fantasy series.

This is a character driven book. The characters are all interesting. None of the characters are perfect and you love them all the more for it. Life is not fair and boy to these people find that out. If I have a complaint it would be with so much tragedy happening to these people, why can't Hobb give them a break every now and then. It is very similar to the character development in George R.R. Martin's books, only I believe Hobb does an even better job. It is interesting to see how people think of themselves and then how the people around them think about them and the surprise of some of them when they realize that they are not as well liked, hated, loved, etc as they thought. Each character in the book has struggles and you struggle with them. I can easily relate a lot of my struggles with the struggles of these characters. Hobb knows people and how they think.

The magic in this is different from most books, such as living ships. Hobb builds a different fantasy world for you, but there is no confusing time trying to get into the development of the world, you feel at home in it right away. It is exciting right from the start, no long periods of trying to explain the world to you. This is 35 hours long and there is not one wasted minute. (Read some of my other reviews and you will see I never go on about any authors like I do Hobb.)

I read the hard cover of this years ago and I am so glad audible came out with it. Some people claim they hate the narrator. I will admit that she has a different style, but I believe she is perfect for this book. I enjoyed this almost as much the second time around as I did the first. The only reason I didn't is that I already knew the surprises and the book is full of them. This is my favorite series of Hobb's and then is the Forrest Mage series and then the Farseer trilogy. Did not care much for the first book in the Tawny Man series and hope it comes out in audio, so I can listen to it. I have one book left in the Dragon Series, but the first two books were real good, so I am looking forward to listening to that soon.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Horrible Narrator

I normally love Robin Hobb books, but this is by far the worst narrator I've ever listened to. I'd only make it 3-4 sentences before I'd be spacing out. I've started and given up on this book about 10 times... She draws out her words, speaks with NO emotion, completely monotone. This is definitely a book to read not listen to.

62 of 69 people found this review helpful

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  • Lore
  • SAN JOSE, CA, United States
  • 05-21-13

Lots of family drama with some interesting fantasy

I did not dislike this book or hate the narrator as some of the other reviewers do, but I can see why many people would not stick this one out to the end. If your daily life is full of whining kids, family disagreements, and unfair decisions by those around you with power then you better be in the mood for more of the same if you plan to read Ship of Magic.

I really enjoyed Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy and that is what led me to Ship of Magic. In this series many of the main characters are female and thus it makes sense to use a female narrator. Anne Flosnik does take some time to get used to and her pace is slow. Combine her narration style with bratty kids, over-bearing parents, and a heavy dose of family squabbles and I can see why some readers walk away from this book before they finish.

I did not walk away and although there was little payoff by the time it ended, I can see how things are primed to come together in the subsequent books. Events towards the end of Ship of Magic start to tie together some of the story lines and the last couple hours of the book were definitely the most enjoyable. I did find myself wanting more at the end.

There are certainly interesting fantasy concepts in this book – liveships, wizardwood, and the mysterious Rainwilds all make you want to learn more about them. While this book takes place in the same mythos as the Farseer Trilogy, the Six Duchies are just minor references and this trilogy stands on its own.

Most people have enough parent/child arguing in their lives and although some may deem it “realistic” for a book to contain such strife throughout, I felt like it went on for too long. I read fantasy to get away from the doldrums of everyday life and Ship of Magic didn’t really take me that far away. This book is 80% set-up and 20% interesting fantasy; however, I do feel like the investment will pay off in the rest of the trilogy.

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Struggling with the Narration.

I read this trilogy a few years ago and it became my favorite series. My heart jumped when I saw it finally came to Audible. I couldnt download it fast enough. However; I can't listen to the narrator. I don't like it and I can't get very far without turning it off. I wish it was narrated by someone else. I am so disappointed.

42 of 47 people found this review helpful

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  • Arturo
  • AUSTIN, TX, United States
  • 09-16-10

I agree

I respect the efforts that the narrators put forward, but i agree that this narrator brought me to a halt. I devoured the farseer books and they werent short! Went through them all almost non stop.
This latest narrator halted my addiction on the first 5 minutes. Shes got an unnatural way to modulate her voice for a smoky dramatic effect that isnt needed or wanted. The genuine and honest way the other narrator read was part of what made things so enjoyable. Is satisfaction guaranteed? I'd like to put that credit toward another book, i cant seem to concentrate trying to make out what shes saying.

40 of 46 people found this review helpful

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whining, whining, whining

Would you try another book from Robin Hobb and/or Anne Flosnik?

I'd try another book by Robin Hobb but I wouldn't listen to another book narrated by Anne Flosnik.

What could Robin Hobb have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Make the characters not whine so much.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Her attempt at giving characters a unique ways of talking failed and I think it my have ruined the book for me.

Any additional comments?

I don't recommend listening to this book as long as it is narrated by Anne Flosnik.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic Read!

Very well written story that is easy to get into. Gets very interesting early on in the story and keeps you wanting more. That's the only problem. None of the story lines are resolved in this book so you have to wait until audible puts up book 2&3. Which is a difficult wait if you enjoy the story as much as I did!

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Ship of Magic

I had never heard of this trilogy, but I like it so far. The reader is really bad. Her inflection is enough to drive you batty, but the book itself is REALLY GOOD.
I hope that they put the rest of these books on audible ... WITH A DIFFERENT READER!!!!!!!

22 of 26 people found this review helpful