Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Rain Wilds Chronicles: Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven (EOS/HarperCollins) by Robin Hobb

With Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven, award-winning fantasist Robin Hobb returns to the richly drawn world of her bestselling Liveship Traders series. Now she takes the reader deep into the dangerous and mysterious Rain Wilds on a quest for the mythical city Kelsingra, the ancient home of dragons and their Elderling keepers. More importantly, she draws us deep into the lives of the outcasts that take this journey for reasons both secret and public, benevolent and vile.

Alise Kilcannon Finbok, bound by contract into a loveless, soul-crushing marriage of convenience, takes an opportunity to leave the niceties of Bingtown life to study newly-hatched dragons far into the acidic jungles of the Rain Wilds. Thymara, shunned by Rain Wilds society due to her bizarre physical aberrations wrought by the strange environment, seizes a chance to prove herself on the expedition to find a new home for the deformed, yet still expensively destructive, creatures. Sintara, a newly hatched dragon queen, is hobbled by physical deformities that belie the proud memories of her majestic birthright.

Change is the driving theme of this series. Alise struggles against the dictates of her marriage and the shackles of her weak sense of self to blossom into an assertive young woman who knows what it is that she wants from life. Thymara comes of age in hard circumstances; her stubbornness is tempered into a firm resolve that will serve her well as a band of similarly disfigured outcasts form their own community. Sintara, as well as the other malformed dragons of her tangle, begins to grow and develop into a true dragon, wrestling against the need to be "kept" by humans and her desire to change them...though knowing that as dragons change their human companions, they too, are changed. The hardships of the journey, shifting alliances, unearthed betrayals, and kept secrets will ensure that everyone who undertakes the journey, human and dragon alike, will find themselves changed irrevocably: there can be no return to what they knew before.

Dragon Keeper, volume one of the presumed trilogy, sets the stage for the conflicts that are mostly resolved in volume two, Dragon Haven. In fact, Dragon Keeper is very much a first act; were it not for the high quality of the writing, it would not stand alone without the resolutions presented in the next volume. Dragon Haven ties up many of the loose ends, and like a good second act, introduces new conflicts that lurk in the shadows of the next volume. Hobb's strength has always been her ability to create compelling characters to inhabit her richly detailed worlds. The Rain Wilds Chronicles is no exception.

Visit Buy Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven today.

Shedrick Pittman-Hassett is a full-time librarian and part-time writer trying to do that the other way around. He has written reviews for Library Journal and has also had two articles published in the award-winning Knights of the Dinner Table magazine. Shedrick currently resides in Denton, Texas ("The Home of Happiness") with his lovely wife and the obligatory demon-spawn cats. When not writing, gaming, or watching cheezy kung-fu flicks, he can be found in a pub enjoying a fine brew.


Anonymous said...

great review! I recently finished Hobb's Farseer trilogy, and am slowly making my way through her discography. I love that she has different series that follow different characters in different areas, but that it all takes place in the same world.

I take it I should read the Liveship Traders trilogy (i've got books one and two) before embarking on Rain Wilds?

Shedrick said...

"I take it I should read the Liveship Traders trilogy...before embarking on Rain Wilds?"

Not necessarily...Rain Wilds takes place in the same world and obliquely references other characters but very much stands on its own (IMHO)