Title: Dragon Keeper
Author: Robin Hobb
Series: The Rain Wild Chronicles
The first book in a two part series from one of the greatest writers in the fantasy genre. Dragon Keeper returns fans to Hobb’s best-loved world, full of dragons, magical ships and unforgettable characters.
Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River, the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and impenetrable forest, it is a hard place for any to survive.
People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other aberrations, 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 return of dragons: 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 which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly; some seem witless and bestial. Soon, they become a danger and a burden to the Rain Wilders: something must be done. The dragons claim an ancestral memory of a fabled Elderling city far upriver: perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But Kelsingra appears on no maps and 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 on the journey to a city which may not even exist…
Robin Hobb is one my all-time favourite authors so I’m more likely to love anything she writes. I will say that I wasn’t very excited about starting The Rain Wild Chronicles, not because I didn’t think I’d enjoy it, but more so because I didn’t feel like reading about new characters. Ironically, meeting these characters was actually what I loved and enjoyed about the book.
I’ve always been a fan of how Hobb writes her characters. I don’t know how she does it, but she always writes them in a way that makes them very human. It usually takes a number of chapters before I find myself drawn to a character’s story, but a couple of chapters in Dragon Keeper and I was already relating to and advocating for some of them.
Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven (the second book of the series) are actually two parts of one book. This is why Dragon Keeper feels like a long read without much of anything really happening. Viewed by itself, Dragon Keeper is very slow in its pacing. However, if seen as half of a whole, it becomes a foundational set up for what’s to come.
I’m typically not a fan of slow books. Most of the time, I find them so slow that I end up losing interest. Dragon Keeper is not that book. I didn’t find its slow pace an issue and here’s why: Hobb is a master at characterization. Dragon Keeper is the tenth book I’ve read by Hobb and she just keeps getting better. Her characters will compel you to keep reading and the next thing you know, you’re at the end of the book.
If you’ve read other books by Hobb and you’re tempted to skip this series, I would encourage you not to. While these books mainly focus on the Rain Wilds, it adds richness to the world Hobb has built in her previous novels. I enjoyed seeing the ‘other side of the story’ when certain events were happening in different places of this realm and I really liked the appearances of some characters from her previous books.
I can’t wait to read the next instalment of this series and see what else Hobb has in store. If you’ve read her previous trilogies (Farseer, Liveship Traders, and Tawny Man), you will understand what I mean when I say reading her books is like coming home.