If you have just picked up Blood of Dragons without reading at least the previous three novels in this fine series – don’t. Give yourself a real treat, go back to the first book, The Dragon Keeper and immerse yourself into this wonderful world so that you can properly appreciate Hobb’s creation.
Dragon blood and scales, dragon liver and eyes and teeth. All required ingredients for medicines with near-miraculous healing powers. The legendary blue dragon Tintaglia is dying of wounds inflicted by hunters sent by the Duke of Chalced. If Tintaglia perishes, her ancestral memories will die with her. And the dragons in the ancient city of Kelsingra will lose the secret knowledge they need to survive. Their keeprs immerse themselves in the dangerously additive memory-stone records of the city in the hope of recovering the Elderling magic that once allowed humans and dragons to co-exist. In doing so they risk losing their own identities, even their lives.
And danger threatens from beyond the city, too. For war is coming: war between dragonkind and those who would destroy them.
So you have it – the scenario that awaits the cast of characters we have been following. Does Hobb manage to successfully wrap up the multiple character arcs and sub-plots that her readers have avidly followed since the start of this story – and in some cases, from before that? Even for a writer of Hobb’s experience and talent, this is a big ask.
As far as I am concerned, the answer has to be – absolutely. I am a sucker for character-led books and Hobb’s books always tick that box. Her strength as a writer is to give her readers a ringside seat while her characters battle against a slew of misfortunes and character traits that hamper them, providing plenty of tension. Mostly because I find that really care, as she shows her protagonists in three-dimensional detail. Although, for once there was one character who was in danger of sliding into the realms of pantomime villain – not normally Hobb’s style. Her depiction of Hest did slightly jar, while set amongst so many other nuanced, well depicted characters.
I particularly enjoyed the unflinching arrogance and self-absorption of the dragons and the sense of loss experienced by those who devoted themselves to looking after them – some of the keepers would be forever slightly adrift. Hobb provides satisfying conclusions to most of the individual stories running through this series, but that does not guarantee happiness for everyone. However, this book held me throughout and when it finally finished, I put it down with a bittersweet sense of loss that I had finally reached the end of this particular journey that started with The Dragon Keeper – and a rush of thankfulness that I had found such a wonderful world in which to lose myself. And in the unlikely event of finally getting a summer worth the name this year, I’ve already made a promise to myself – to stretch out on the garden swing with the four books in this series and reread the lot, while basking in the heat…