Dragon Haven is the second and last installment in Robin Hobb’s Rain Wilds Chronicles. You may remember that I previously posted my review of Dragon Keeper, the first book, and that it hadn’t been the best book it could have been. Dragon Haven follows in the same vein, and concludes the story in a….satisfying way. Standing at five hundred plus pages, it is the eleventh book Hobb has written in her Realm of the Elderlings.
Blurb: The dragon keepers and the fledgling dragons are forging passage up the treacherous Rain Wild River. They are in search of the mythical Elderling city of Kelsingra, and are accompanied by the liveship Tarman, its captain, Leftrin, and a group of hunters who must search the forest for game with which to keep the dragons fed. With them Alise, who has escaped her cold marriage to the cruel livertine Hest Finbok in order to continue her study of dragons, and Hest’s amanuensis, Bingtown dandy, Sedric. Rivalries and romances are already threatening to disrupt the band of explorers: but external forces may prove to be even more dangerous. Chalcedean merchants are keen to lay their hands on dragon blood and organs to turn them into medicines and profit. Their traitor has infiltrated the expeditions and will stop at nothing to obtain the coveted body parts. And then there are the Rain Wilds themselves: mysterious, unstable and ever perilous, its mighty river running with acid, its jungle impenetrable and its waterways uncharted. Will the expedition reach their destination unscathed? Does the city of Kelsingra even exist? Only one thing is certain: the journey will leave none of the dragons nor their human companions unchanged by the experience.
Dragon Haven is basically the second half of one book, with Dragon Keeper being the front half. I’d expressed this fact in my review of the first book and said that I hoped that the sequel would pick things up and brings us back to a more Hobb-like level of goodness. That happened. Somewhat. Things might not have picked up as much as I wanted but in a strange sort of way, reading them in a sequel almost made them seem a tad bit more interesting. Still, it remained a relatively slow book with very few important and riveting events, concentrating more on the internal intrigue between the characters.
The book seemed to lack a large enough conflict. Most books have a good person vs. bad person conflict or a conflict involving players we’re not too sure about. The largest conflict that I can identify in Dragon Haven, beyond the squabbling of the characters, was man vs. nature in the sense of the characters against the Rain Wild River and their environment. In fact one of the most notable events is caused by this. I personally choose to ignore what happens between the characters (and when I say that I mean the ones part of the expedition) because a lot of the arguments seem petty and they, for a major part, revolve around sex and rape. As much as these things might be a part of fantasy, they are rarely at the heart of are intrigue. One of the main challenges Thymara, one of the protagonists, had to face was either to choose who she would have sex with or face the risk of being raped by the rest. How is that a central part of a book? A lot of the other stuff Hobb offered us was like this, and none of it was probably material enough for a book.
Hobb’s books are usually excellent, yet this one was clichéd, unrealistic (in a fantasy sense) and pointless. Just like in Dragon keeper there is little to nothing in terms of denouement. It all leads to a predictable ending in which the characters, even after all the time we spent with their arguably pathetic issues and relationships, did not significantly change. The ones that were unsure are unsure and the one that weren’t still aren’t. The dragons probably have more significant character arcs. And yet, even though structurally and technically it is not a “good” book, I still read it all and I was not displeased by the experience. Maybe that’s just because it’s Hobb and I’m a bit of a fan, but it doesn’t change the fact that I liked it; a lot less than some of her other books, but still. If you look at it, Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven are sort of like a big accompanying story, telling us sort of a side story in the Realm of the Elderlings world, without being a legitimate entry like the Farseer, Liveship and Tawny Man trilogies.
Obviously if you’ve already made it through Dragon Keeper then it is definitely worth getting through this second half of the story. If you’re a fan of Hobb’s work in general then pick up both the books as they do give you the chance to plunge back into the Elderling’s world and maybe get a bit more mythos on the world and their inhabitants. For others, check out Hobb’s other books first; it’s not worth picking these up as first time readers of her work.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Reading Age: 16 and up
Violence: very little but still some
Sex/Language: no language but a lot of sex and sex related talk
Robin Hobb's Website: http://www.robinhobb.com/
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