At the end of 2018 I decided to take advantage of having finished my Goodreads Challenge to read some of the longer books on my TBR list, and so I finally got round to reading Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb and Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon.
Both of them took me quite a while to get through, but I really enjoyed them, although perhaps one more than the other. Check out my reviews below for my thoughts!
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
“Many will rant and rave against the garment fate has woven for them, but they pick it up and don it all the same, and most wear it to the end of their days. You… you would rather go naked into the storm.”
In a world where wizardwood exists – a sentient wood from the Rain Wild Rivers – liveships are incredibly valuable. Made from wizardwood, they’re the only thing that allows a Trader to negotiate the dangerous waters of the Rain Wild River. Althea Vestrit is expected to inherit the liveship Vivacia when her father dies, an event that also means the ship will quicken – come alive – as he will be the third member of the family to die aboard and allow his consciousness to blend with the ship. But when her father dies and the ship is signed over to her cruel brother-in-law, Althea fears for her newly woken ship, and vows to do everything in her power to reclaim Vivacia, before too much damage is done. Because liveships have gone mad before…
Robin Hobb is a legendary fantasy writer, and an author who had been on my TBR list for literally years. I finally read her book Assassin’s Apprentice a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, and then somehow, I never read anymore… Anyway, Ship of Magic caught my eye, as I loved the concept, and I had wanted to read another Robin Hobb book, so I was super excited to read this book.
And thankfully it lived up to my expectations! It had everything you’d want in a good fantasy: exceptional world building, a unique magic system and a varied cast of characters.
I have to say that not all the characters in this book were super likeable – in fact most weren’t – but I feel like that’s a sign of a good book when it can get away with having largely unlikable main characters.
I think Althea and Wintrow were about as close as it got to likeable, even if they did have their flaws, and I certainly enjoyed reading about the complex ins and outs of the Vestrit family. Characters like Kyle, Kennit and Malta were all incredible unlikable, but also interesting, so this wasn’t necessarily a problem, and I was especially fascinated by the liveship Paragon. His history of madness and sudden changes of character were so sinister, and showed the potential of a liveship gone bad, and it makes you really fear for Vivicia!
The plot of this book was perhaps a little slow at time, and occasionally when something exciting was about to happen the book would switch to another character and leave you hanging. But for the most part the story was enjoyable, and kept me turning pages, and I was definitely left wanting to know more after that climax!
Hopefully I’ll get to the next book soon, as opposed to taking ages to read it and then forgetting everything that happened, which is what I seem to have done with Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy…
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
“You are my courage, as I am your conscience,” he whispered. “You are my heart—and I your compassion. We are neither of us whole, alone. Do ye not know that, Sassenach?”
Brianna’s heart was broken when her mother stepped back through the stones and through time in search of her long lost love, Jamie Fraser. However, she had reconciled herself to the loss knowing her mother was happy…until she stumbles upon something terrible in a history book. Now she must make her own terrifying trip through the stones to save her mother and the father she had never met. And unbeknownst to her, her own love has followed her…
It’s been quite a while since I read the previous book in this series, Voyager, but after starting to watch the ‘Outlander’ TV series, I was inspired to finally read this fourth instalment. It was nice to return to Claire, Jamie and co., but this certainly hasn’t been my favourite book in the series…
For one thing, the blurb kind of implied that this book was largely going to be about Brianna’s trip through the stones to save her mother. However, it seemed to take over half the book for Brianna to finally go through the stones, and even then, you don’t actually see it happen. A lot of the Brianna timeline events seem to be covered from the perspective of Roger Wakefield, who to be honest, I found to be an annoying, and not overly interesting character.
I liked the Jamie and Claire bits though, and as much as I’ve always loved the Scottish setting of the Outlander books, I liked the change of scenery with them heading to America. I also really liked seeing them create their own little settlement at Fraser’s Ridge, and their various adventures there.
However, despite enjoying the long-awaited Brianna-Jamie meeting, I feel like things went a bit downhill after Brianna arrives. For one thing, there’s one of those classic ‘storytelling misunderstandings’ that happens, that could easily have been solved by better communication amongst the characters. And I know that these things are done for plot reasons, but personally I just find them incredibly irritating!
Plus, a lot of the story towards the end hinges on the whole Roger and Brianna romance, and to be honest, I find I don’t overly care for it. Perhaps it’s because it’s a romance in a series of books that had the epic Claire-Jamie across time romance, and it just doesn’t compare, or perhaps it’s just my great dislike for Roger… either way, I’m just not invested in their relationship.
I’m hoping the TV series Roger is going to be a lot more likeable than book Roger, because I’ve enjoyed the TV series so far, and I’d like to continue enjoying it (I’m still only on season 2 though)!
I probably will get to the next book at some point, but especially if it starts to focus more on Brianna and Roger, it could be some time before I feel motivated to pick it up. Plus these books do tend to be a little more long-winded than necessary in my opinion, and it does always seem like quite a task to begin one.
However, on the whole I did enjoy Drums of Autumn, as it was nice to catch up with well-loved characters like Claire and Jamie. I also liked seeing their relationship change slightly with Brianna now in the mix, especially with Claire caught in the crossfire on several occasions between the fiery tempers of her husband and her daughter.
So have you read either of these books? What did you think of them?