Wizardwood, a sentient wood.
The most precious commodity in the world.
Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds.
But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River? Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes. Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…
Others plot to win or steal a liveship. The Paragon, known by many as the Pariah, went mad, turned turtle, and drowned his crew. Now he lies blind, lonely, and broken on a deserted beach. But greedy men have designs to restore him, to sail the waters of the Rain Wild River once more.
Cover illustration by John Howe
I’ll begin by saying that this book is one of the best books I have ever read. Holy crap, it was so good.
This story is part of the 16 book series by Robin Hobb called The Realm of the Elderlings. It takes place in the same world as Hobb’s well-known Farseer trilogy (which precedes this book in the overall series) but in a different part of the world, with different characters, and is completely separate from Fitz’ story. There are references here and there but the books don’t overlap at all directly.
“𝙽𝚘 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛 𝚐𝚘 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚝𝚘 𝚢𝚎𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚍𝚊𝚢.”
We follow the story of the Vestrit family; a trader family in Bingtown and their liveship Vivacia. A liveship is made of Wizardwood and when three generations of ship owners die upon their decks the ship will ‘quicken’ and come alive. We follow a variety of characters within and around this family, all with their own seperate motives and agendas.
This book has so many things going for it from the get go. Sea faring, pirates, sword play, magic and not to mention following on from the fantastic Farseer books. That’s a lot of expectation. I knew I would likely enjoy this book before I even read it and I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, this book surpassed my expectations. I can see myself enjoying this more than Farseer. And I loved Farseer.
The characters are what sells this story for me. Their journeys are complex and heart felt, and if you don’t know, Hobb is a writer who real knows how to tug on your heart strings. I just love the way she writes characters. They are all so human. Everyone is flawed. Her way of writing inner thoughts and emotion just makes their decisions and actions feel so relatable. You really feel like you get to know these characters just like people in real life. I found the protagonists so easy to root for and their development was spot on throughout this book, especially Althea and Wintrow. I do think the antagonists in this book are (so far at least) better written than the ones in Farseer. You thought you hated Regal? Well, just you wait folks.
It’s hard to pick a favourite POV character when they all so well done. Even the ones you despise. Althea was the character I found myself relating to and rooting for the most. I saw similar qualities from my own personality in her, and I really loved her growth throughout this book.
“𝙾𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚖𝚢 𝚙𝚊𝚒𝚗 𝚒𝚜 𝚖𝚘𝚛𝚎 𝚜𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚗 𝚖𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚐𝚎𝚛.”
Personally, I loved that this book is multiple third person POV’s. That’s a format that I always tend to prefer over a single POV. I think that’s one thing that makes me think I will overall prefer this trilogy to Farseer.
The book is long. Over 800 pages. But I didn’t mind one bit. The pages flew by honestly. There are lots of hints and breadcrumbs that surely relate to what’s to come for this story. Some storylines in this book are very much unresolved and unexplained, which can seem frustrating and make you wonder ‘was that necessary?’ But I trust Hobb to bring all the strings together in later books and I was just so captured and intrigued for what’s to come. Particularly with Paragon and Amber.
I have heard that some people say you can read The Realm of the Elderlings and skip Liveships all together, and that’s possibly true. However, if you did I think you would be missing out on this incredible gem of a story. Don’t skip it! Just don’t do it. This is a book to be savoured; like a fine wine.
At the end if the day the truth is plain and simple. Hobb knows how to write. It doesn’t matter what format it is; first person or third person. She is a master of the craft and has taken over my literary life in one foul swoop. She is just so damn good. Recommend this book to everyone and anyone. Fantasy fan or not, this book is a great start to what seems to be a truly great story.
Overall, I give this book all the stars in the world and look forward to many rereads in future.