Not far from the Six Duchies lies Bingtown, hub of exotic trade and home to a merchant nobility famed for its liveships — rare vessels carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically into sentient awareness. Bingtown’s Old Traders, their wealth eroded by northern wars and the rapacity of southern pirates, now face an influx of upstart merchants who bring change to a complex society.
The Vestrit family’s only hope of renewed prosperity is the Vivacia, a liveship they have nurtured for three generations. Now, as old Captain Vestrit lies dying in Bingtown, the Vivacia cuts homeward through the waves, about to quicken into a living being. The ship carries Vestrit’s daughter Althea and the conniving son-in-law he has named as the Vivacia s next captain.
But lovely, wild-spirited Althea, sailing the Vivacia with her father since childhood and sharing its half-awakened memories and ocean secrets, has bonded with the ship in her deepest soul. Joined by Brashen — her father’s first mate, now demoted by the Vivacia’s new commander — she will stop at nothing in a bitter quest to claim its captaincy.
Meanwhile, in the rocky cays known as the Pirate Isles, a ruthless man lusts after his own kind of power. The pirate captain Kennit, in his scheme to be king of this outlaw realm, has vowed that he will wrest a liveship from its owners and turn it to his own use. His twisted ambition will bring him into a strange partnership with a boy-priest turned seaman — and into violent conflict with the wizardwood magic of Althea and Brashen.
From the peculiar magic realm of the Others to the bawdy, raucous lair of the pirates, Ship of Magic sweeps a dazzling cast of characters into an epic of terrible beauty and mysterious sorcery.