I loved this series more than Hobb's more popular Fitz series (of which there are now two). I think of it often; the vivid writing and strong characterizations -- not to mention the fact that it was easy to relate to Althea -- have made this series high on my all-time list.
Book 3 of a three book series. Do not start this book unless you plan the read the entire 3 book series, Interesting female lead character, who grows and develops thru the arc of the three books. Sexy at times without blatant porn descriptions of romantic events. If you like fantasy, and period stories set in a trading coastal sailing setting then you'll enjoy this empire building/destroying piratical romp. Mysteries abound and you might have to wait to the next book to figure out exactly what is going on, so if you like long trilogies these books might be up your ally.
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.
Best fantasy series I have read yet. The Farseer series is awesome too, and I recommend reading that series first. But the three books that belong to the Liveship Trader series are extremely fun. I really don't think any of them were slow. Lots of adventure and so much on human nature. Hobb has caught humanness in its rawness. These books are a step above. The one thing I really enjoyed about reading this series is it never felt like I had to push through any spots of the book. It flowed really well. The character building is phenomenal. The worlds are great. I am having a hard time moving on after I finished this series of books. Ten!