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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Revised Review: Book Two in the Liveship Traders Trilogy, "The Mad Ship"

In my review of Ship of Magic (Book #1 in the Liveship Traders series), I explained how DD had introduced me to the work of Robin Hobb when I was keen to do some reading outside my ususal favourite genres. I grew to like that book more as I read further into it, and was keen to start this second book in the trilogy. I loathed spoilt brat Malta in Book 1. However, i n Book Two, she develops a maturity and depth of character that had me cheering for her, right to the bitter end. She's a fighter, and is on the way to becoming one of my favourite literary heroines. The moment when she recognises herself  in her loathsome travelling companions is priceless. It's matched when Malta finds herself rebuking them in exactly the way her grandmother tried to reason with her, back in Malta's good old, bad old days. Every parent will have sympathised with Ronica at that time. When Malta is forced to experience what her Grandmother must have felt when faced with a lazy, truculent wastrel, it's a clever use of character development.

There was only one thing about this book I didn't like. That's not bad for a volume running to 906 pages, but this failing in the text irritated me so much it pulled me right out of the reading experience whenever I encountered it. I lost count of the number of times the word "muck" cropped up. On pages 673/4 in particular, it appears no fewer than 6 times. Now, characters spend a lot of time burrowing in, and escaping from, well...colloids of dirt. There's no escaping the substance, but Robin Hobb seems to have only one word for the stuff. In my ancient Thesaurus, there are a total of fourteen alternatives to the word "muck". Not all would work in the context of this book, but surely replacing the word with mud, sludge, slime, slop, ooze and mire would bring a bit of variety to the text. I know all about repeating a word for dramatic effect, and so - in another context -  does Ms Robb. This is apparent from the amazingly beautiful effect created by the repetition of the word memory and memories when Malta is finding her way thrugh the underground caverns, but that isn't what's happening here, with "muck". All the constant overuse of the word does is to convey the author's personal revulsion in a way that broke the spell, distanced me from the fictional world and tied me far too personally in to Ms Robb's mind.
If the Liveship Traders hasn't already run to a second edition, could this be addressed in future printings?
That's my only complaint, and I'm looking forward to reading the final book in this trilogy.