Tag Archives: The Rain Wilds Chronicles

Review of The Dragon Keeper – Book 1 of the Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb

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This post appeared when only a passing fly noticed any of my reviews – so I thought I’d unleash it once more upon an unsuspecting world, given Robin Hobb is one of my favourite authors and I think this is one of her best books…

 

The great news for Robin Hobb fans is that The Dragon Keeper is revisiting the world of the Liveship traders – one of my all-time favourite fantasy worlds…

thedragonkeeperThe Tangle of serpents fought their way up the Rain Wild river, guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia. Many died along the way. With its acid waters and noxious airs, it is a hard place for anyone to survive. People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other abnormalities, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the dragons’ return. It is as if they symbolise the return of hope to their war-torn world. Leftrin, captain of the Liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching, as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life’s work to study all there is to know of dragons.

But the creatures who emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly. Some do not even have wings; others seem witless and bestial. Soon they are seen as a danger and a burden; something must be done. Far upriver, so far it is shown on no map, lies the legendary Elderling city of Kelsingra – or so the dragons believe. In their dreams, they see visions of their lives there and long to return. But they cannot get there on their own; a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them. To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job; their charges are vicious and unpredictable, and there are many unknown perils. Not only are they not expected to return – no one wants them back…

I was delighted when I realised that this book would pick up the adventures of the tangle of serpents as I’d found the whole storyline surrounding them and the liveships a really satisfying tale. So I started The Dragon Keeper with high expectations – and it did not disappoint.

The characters in Hobb’s stories are always strong and in this story we have several protagonists, all in third person viewpoint. The two that stand out for me are Alise and Thymara – but the whole cast are entertaining and once more, Hobbs gradually unwraps her plot with the deft skill we’ve all come to expect. Her world building is pitch perfect as the inhospitable Rain Wilds take its toll on man and beast alike – in contrast to the stifling confines of Bingtown’s society.

The main theme of rejection – one of Hobb’s recurring issues in her work – winds throughout the storyline. The party accompanying the dragons are all unacceptable in one way or another and each one of them has been shaped by being an outcast. As the journey gets under way, their differences in attitudes are thrown into sharp relief – and promise to create yet more narrative tension in the second book in the series, due out next year. This is Hobb at the top of her game – and I can’t wait to read the sequel.
10/10

Review of Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb – Book 4 of The Rain Wilds Chronicles

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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.

blood of dragonsDragon 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…
9/10