This is a review for the entire Liveship Traders Trilogy (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, Ship of Destiny) because I find it almost impossible to rate them as individual books.
This series falls in the gap between The Farseer Trilogy and The Tawny Man Trilogy. One or two characters overlap between the series (namely Amber, although her real identity is never truly revealed, only alluded to quite strongly...) and the rest are totally original but no less enjoyable.
This was also a very well written and complex series. I did not think I would find the subject matter of pirates and nautical tales as interesting as her other books, but I was more than pleasantly surprised.
Hobb does a masterful job of creating yet another living, thriving, complicated world that is full of characters so well drawn that it is hard to remember that they don't actually exist.
The issues of politics, self-government, slavery, piracy, inheritance, gender roles, higher callings, dragons, serpents, blood oaths, luck, destiny, hidden secrets, forgiveness and self-discovery provide a glimpse of what these books are about. Oh yes, and there are lots of ships as well.
All three have the typical pacing of a Robin Hobb book: not particularly fast-moving, but undeniably compelling and emotionally draining. By the end of the series, you will feel that you have actually lived it. You will be exhausted. Then you will want to read it again.
Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors and although I prefer the Fitz trilogy and the Tawny Man trilogy to this one (Liveship trilogy), that doesn't mean that this isn't a good book. In fact, I don't usually like ship-type books and sailing on the high sea, but that didn't matter to me in this book. I loved the characters and there are lots of surprises in store for the reader (especially those familiar with the other two trilogies because there is a connection).