I’d like to start by saying that Robin Hobb is one of the greatest fantasy writers out there. Not only that but she is also one of my favorite authors. She has quite a few books published, mostly in the form of trilogies, and they are all, with the possible exception of the Soldier Son Trilogy, some amazing books. Her two first trilogies: The Farseer Trilogy and the Liveship Traders are in fact widely considered epitomes of the fantasy genre. Now with that in mind let’s look at her last book, The Dragon Keeper, which was published back in June 2009 (in the UK, will be released in the US on January 26th , 2010). The book is a continuation of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings, and follows more closely the events following those of the Liveship Traders.
The basic premise goes as follows: the dragon Tintaglia has called the sea serpents back to the Rain Wilds River so that they can swim up the river to the cocooning grounds and there turn into dragons. The problem is that the serpents have been in the sea for too long, since the mysterious disaster that destroyed the Elderling civilization, and they are now too old to properly cocoon. That along with other factors means that when they finally hatch, those few that have survived the process thus far come out weak, malformed and crippled. Their situation is so bad that they must rely on the people of the Rain Wilds to feed them as they cannot hunt for themselves.
The novel follows the viewpoints of quite a few characters, some who start the book in the Rain Wilds, some in Bingtown and others traveling along the Rain Wild River. And at first this can be pretty confusing due to the fact that for an important part of the book none of these POV characters’ actions overlap in any way. It is only much further in the book that they do and that the story finally picks up. So the reader must be ready to wait for the story to truly begin. Even once it does, however, it remains at a pace which, while not being fast, is readable.
The characters themselves are quite well fleshed out and when the main journey begins we already have a considerable amount of background information about them. In a sense that’s a good thing since it leaves room for complex interactions between the characters further on in the story.
Hobb’s writing style is as always excellent, and I have nothing to say about it, but as you might have guessed I have some qualms about her plot/pacing choices. As I understand it, The Rain Wild Chronicles, made up of Dragon Keeper and a to-be-published Dragon Haven, were originally meant to be one single volume but due to length issues it was essentially split into the two separate novels that they are now. My concern with this is that Dragon Keeper falls into the place of the first half of a book, meaning the sometimes boring and slow set up. This leads to a novel that is okay but has no pay off at the end leaving the reader thinking: “… and what!?!”
In the end, if you’re a fan of Robin Hobb and you have read her previous books it is probably alright for you to go and read this though I’m sure will feel a level of disappointment. For newcomers to Hobb’s work, I recommend waiting until Dragon Haven comes out in March 2010 as it should be more fulfilling reading the two together.
My Rating: 3 out of 5, meh kind of book, I’m waiting for the second book to get my pay off
Reading Age: 12-13 and up
Violence: very little that I can remember, and if there is it is very light
Sex/Language: No language that comes to mind. A couple of sex scenes that could be shocking to the more prude readers but they are quite pertinent to the development of Alise character
Robin Hobb’s website: http://robinhobb.com/
Hobb’s Livejournal: http://robin-hobb.livejournal.com/ (she updates this more than her website)
Buy The Dragon Keeper: