I have not read so much fantasy since I was in my early 20’s, and it seems to have reawakened my taste for classic fantasy. I began to search around for a good fantasy series that was epic in style, but also somewhat more heroic in form than the other stuff I had been reading.
To that end, Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic has served nicely. Like the aformentioned, it is well written, contemporary fantasy that does not blink in the face of grittiness or moral ambiguity, but it is more heroic and romantic in style than Game of Thrones. The plot is better structured than The Magician’s Land, and less bleak that Abercrombie’s First Law series. Additionally, the series is by a female author and features complex and well-thought-out female characters, both of which qualities are sometimes hard to find in the genre.
While not perfect, Ship of Magic came through for me. The story is strong and the characters (well, most of them) are compelling, and Hobb does a nice job of world-building, providing moments of empathy and understanding, as well as tricking and surprising us. The plot, like the sea serpents that haunt this book, has teeth and moves both above and below the surface. Continue reading