I was really disappointed in this final book. I kept thinking to myself: "Robin Hobb, why so rape-y?"
Hobb does deliver a decent story and I enjoyed quite a bit of this book. I really enjoyed the story of the liveships and the relationship that they had with the serpents and the dragons. The things I was disappointed with were the forced roles of women, how quickly the end wrapped up neat and tidy, and the emphasis on Althea's (and to some extend, Serilla's) rape
The first part of my complaint was the role of women. I realize I expect a lot out of women writers, especially with regards to women and women's roles, but I felt Hobb was a little forced with not just the roles that all of the many women represented in the book, but the character developments that stretched a little too far. While I can believe some of the development of stronger women, like Keffria, I was very disappointed in Malta, who was transformed into an entirely different person, Althea, who lost most of her spirit (what I liked best earlier in the series), and Serilla, who just seemed to fall apart as a character, even though she had (I felt) a huge amount of potential.
The ending felt rushed, that the last third of this book packed all of the action that the first book lacked. Most of the threads in the book were very neatly squared away and I just felt like the ending was too easy and cheap for the amount of time, action, and intrigue that had gone into the book.
As for the emphasis on rape, I will admit that I abhor any time authors use rape as a plot point (I feel it is too cheap and easy and used far, far too often). Hobb uses sexual assault in every book in the series, and in this last book, its emphasis is very strong and I felt extremely uncomfortable with both the fact that she uses it and how much time and effort she spent on it. Yes, rape is bad, yes refusal to believe a victim is bad, and yes, the after affects are bad, I don't need a fantasy novel that I would like to enjoy to teach me that particular lesson. If I had known that I was to deal with the consequences of rape ad-nauseum, I would not have started this series at all.
The series overall was decent, and I have to give kudos to Hobb for her excellent prose and creating a nautical setting for this series (something I don't believe is very prevalent in fantasy). I wish her world-building were as good in this series as it was the Farseer series; overall it was OK. But even though it has many good points, it has as many bad points, and I just can't stop thinking as this book as overdone in the rape department and underdone as far as characters and complexity at the end. This was definitely the weakest book in the series.