Today's book review is Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.
This is the first of a trilogy. It doesn't assume that you've read anything else (I have no idea if it is even in the same world as any of her other books). It is clearly just the beginning of the story, leaving several interwoven stories waiting for resolution.
I picked this book up at Chambanacon because Eric Flint said something that made me think I should try this author. Unfortunately, I can't remember exactly what he said, but I dove into this book and quickly discovered that it is very engagingly written and it has a central magical gimmick that is quite original (or at least, completely new to me) that I find interesting and well presented. It's very fortunate that it's engagingly written and fairly fast paced, because it's over 800 pages and this is only the first third. This is one of those books that interweaves the stories of several viewpoint characters, and it's a testament to the writing that I didn't feel confused or overwhelmed. We spend a lot of time on sailing ships, with enough detail to make it feel realistic to a complete landlubber like me, but I never got the feeling that I was getting an info dump because the author wanted to show off how much they knew about the subject. We spend a little more time on family drama than I might prefer, but it's pretty good family drama. We spend a lot of time in the heads of a couple of characters that at various times I wanted to retroactively strangle in their bassinets -- but they're complex enough that there are real seeds of redemption in the one that seemed really icky bad at first, and a little sympathy with the second one for trying to do his best when he's out of his depth. Quite enjoyable reading; the biggest weakness is that we get to the end of the book and realize that not as much really happened as we thought -- after 800 pages we're past the beginning and solidly into the middle of several stories, but we haven't seen any endings.
8 out of 10.
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