Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dragon Keeper Book Review

by The Wanderer 

Author: Robin Hobb
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Rain Wild Chronicle Book One
Pages: 500

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After a costly war with Chalced, Bingtown and Treehaug must fulfill their part of the bargain they made with the dragon Tintaglia for keeping their lands safe. Tasked with protecting her newly hatched dragons, things go quickly awry when nearly all the newly hatched dragons turn out to be physically and mentally disabled. Making things worse, Tintaglia herself disappears, leaving the burden of raising these dragons to the people of Casserick. 

After years of living off the labor of humans the dragons and humans both decide that the dragons need to relocate, and it is decided they will try to find the ancient Elderling city of Kelsingra. Accompanying the dragons are their personal keepers, or people that are most heavily touched by the Rain Wilds, the oldest liveship ever made the Tarman, her Captain Leftrin, and her crew, and a Bingtown lady and dragon expert and her secretary.

I was unsure of whether or not I wanted to read The Rain Wild Chronicles. I kind of just wanted to get to the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, and I had heard that this was Hobb's weakest series set in the Elderling's world. On the other hand this was kind of the direct sequel to my favorite Hobb trilogy The Liveship Traders, and even a weak Hobb book is going to be better than 95% of the fantasy that's out there.

Much to my surprise, although I really shouldn't have been, this is an excellent new series. Like the The Liveship Traders, Hobb moves around between a small group of third person limited narrators, and what excellent narrators they are. From the Rain Wild's, there's the keeper Thymara, a girl of sixteen who was born with claws. She is an outcast in the there because her parents didn't mercy kill her when she was younger. Living on a beach in the Rain Wilds is Sintara, the largest dragon queen. She is born with malformed wings, a fierce independence, and a nasty temper to boot. 

From Bingtown, there's Captain Leftrin, who is in charge of the oldest liveship ever made, the Tarman. Unlike other liveships, Tarman doesn't have a figurehead, but due to some shady dealings, he has a few features that make him one of the most unique boats in Robin Hobb's world. Alise Kincarron Finbok is from a less wealthy trader family in Bingtown. Her passion with dragons convinces her to enter into a marriage contract with Hest Finbok in exchange for being able to purchase and pursue her passion with dragons all her life, and for being able to travel up to the Rain Wilds to see the dragons in person. Hest's secretary Sedric, a well-groomed socialite, and Alise's friend since childhood finds himself caught in the middle of this unsurprisingly unhappy marriage. But it turns out Sedric has some secret plans of his own.

As much as I love Hobb's new cast of characters, there's a lot romantic melodrama present. Four out of the five major narrators are having major romantic crisis' in their lives. The only narrator that isn't, is a god damn dragon. There are love triangles, infidelities, betrayals, promiscuity, romantic cliches, and broken hearts galore. These bleeding hearts, and God knows Robin Hobb knows how to bleed them, make reading about their problems feel like I'm in a YA novel. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if she was going for that. 

I guess it's important to note that Dragon Keeper is incomplete. The publisher broke this book into two parts, so there really isn't all that definitive of an ending. More or less there's just a mid-chapter cliffhanger. Either way it's an excellent start to a new series, and the fates of these characters is something I'm committed to reading through to the end.

Score: 8.4

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