Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles Book Four
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(Spoilers for Dragon Keeper, Dragon Haven, and City of Dragons are below).
Dragons and keepers have successfully settled in Kelsingra. But the memory stones may start to cause some people to lose their minds. And all the dragons seem to remember that there was a certain reason Kelsingra was built, and discovering that reason will be key to the future survival of dragons and Elderlings. While the city searches for its means of survival, many people are now heading to seek their fortunes in Kelsingra, and to change the lives of all who live there, but will the dragons and keepers allow it to happen.
With all eyes on Kelsingra, Hobb leaves the reader wondering how this city of dragons and elderlings is going to play a part in a world that has been previously dominated by humans. Hobb has a myriad of different plot threads to juggle here, and she does so extremely well. Hest's imprisonment by the Chalcedean, is one that garners him some sympathy as he is treated so poorly, but Hest doesn't seem to be wholly committed to changing the way he's going to treat others, despite now being on the other side of the "bad treatment" fence.
Selden's capture by the Chalcedeans, starts to turn pretty horrifying, pretty quick. While other aspects of the Rain Wild Chronicles have certainly been lighter on the angst and suffering, Selden's story certainly isn't. It's at this point (now thirteen Elderling books in) that there isn't a whole lot to like about Chalced, but Hobb does give us one Chalcedean to root for finally, and that is the Duke's daughter Chassim.
Else where in Kelsingra, Thymara's decision to finally have sex with Rapskal, does not mean she's chosen him as a romantic partner. And the exploration of this aspect of a relationship, was one I was glad to see put in writing, especially since it's rarely explored in this manner in a fantasy. Rapskal's continued use of the memory stones is pretty alarming, and he frequently shifts between being the old lovable Rapskal, and Tellator, an Elderling warrior with a "bit of the crazy" in him.
Malta and Reyn have finally had their first child, but in order for him to survive he needs some magical help from Tintaglia, who's been on a cross-country tour of the Elderling's world for the past so many books. Fortunately she was on her way back, at the end of City of Dragons, but her injured wing grows more and more painful by the day. Tintaglia's, return as a more prominent character makes for some of the most dramatic and emotionally intense portions of the story.
When it's all said and done, The Rain Wild Chronicles was an excellent addition to the Elderlings World. There's memorable characters that have realistic organic interactions with one another, and that's not something that's easy to do. This isn't my favorite Hobb series, but it's certainly not as weak as some people have made it out to be.