Review | Dragon Keeper by: Robin Hobb

Book: Dragon Keeper
Author: Robin Hobb
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Eos
Date Published: January 18, 2010

Summary:

“Enter the spellbinding world of dragons . . . and those who tend them

One of the most gifted fantasy authors writing today, New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb has dazzled readers with brilliantly imaginative, emotionally resonant, and compulsively readable tales set in far-flung realms not unlike our own. In this enthralling new novel, she returns to the territory of her beloved Liveship Traders and Tawny Man trilogies with a story of dragons and humans, return and rebirth, and the search for meaning, belonging, and home.

For years, the Trader cities valiantly battled their enemies, the Chalcedeans. But they could not have staved off invasion without the powerful dragon Tintaglia. In return, the Traders promised to help her serpents migrate up the Rain Wild River after a long exile at sea—to find a safe haven and, Tintaglia hopes, to restore her species. But too much time has passed, and the newly hatched dragons are damaged and weak, and many die. The few who survive cannot use their wings; earthbound, they are powerless to hunt and vulnerable to human predators willing to kill them for the fabled healing powers of dragon flesh.

But Tintaglia has vanished and the Traders are weary of the labor and expense of tending useless dragons. The Trader leadership fears that if it stops providing for the young dragons, the hungry and neglected creatures will rampage—or die along the river’s acidic muddy banks. To avert catastrophe, the dragons decree a move even farther up the treacherous river to Kelsingra, their ancient, mythical homeland whose mysterious location is locked deep within the dragons’ uncertain ancestral memories.

To ensure their safe passage, the Traders recruit a disparate group of young people to care for the damaged creatures and escort them to their new home. Among them is Thymara, an unschooled forest girl of sixteen, and Alise, a wealthy Trader’s wife trapped in a loveless marriage, who attaches herself to the expedition as a dragon expert. The two women share a deep kinship with the dragons: Thymara can instinctively communicate with them, and Alise, captivated by their beauty and majesty, has devoted her life to studying them.

Embarking on an arduous journey that holds no promise of return, the band of humans and dragons must make their way along the toxic and inhospitable Rain Wild River—an extraordinary odyssey that will teach them lessons about themselves and one another, as they experience hardships, betrayals, and joys beyond their wildest dreams.”

Why Did I Read This Book:

Robin Hobb…. Need I say more as per why I read this book?  I have a LOVE affair with her writing.  The woman is a god.  She has absolutely no compunction against torturing her MC’s in order to tell a story.  And by torture I mean put them through hell.  I admire her balls. Cause they are huge.  ‘Nuff said.

Reaction/Review:

It felt amazingly good to get back to reading my roots.  It felt like a warm embrace and homemade pie sinking back into my comfy high fantasy chair.

That being said the first novel felt a little short.  Like we were just starting to pick up the pace and get someplace and then it ended.  It ended on a world of possibilities note, but ended it did none the less.

I feel for Alise when I am reading Alise; her plight, and position in life.  The truth is though she hasn’t reached out and grabbed life by the balls, instead letting life grab her and toss her about.  She is finally taking on a bit of adventure for herself.  This is good.  There is even a forbidden love story, as she begins to fall for the Captain Leftrin.  And lord knows how I can’t resist a love story.

Alise begins by entering into a loveless marriage with Hest Finbok for a life of comfort and to continue in her scholarly pursuit for dragon lore.  Part of her marriage contract was the stipulation that she could go and see the stunted dragons that were hatched.  She finally pushes for this desire that was promised her.  Hest, being pushed into giving her, her desire sends Sedric, his personal secretary with Alise as a chaperon.

Except Sedric is really Hest’s lover and Alise has no clue as of yet.  She has accused Hest of cheating, to which he denied that there is no other woman.  A choice of words, but a good play to him.  However, this is a prime example of his calculating nature. He has a way of lording his power over others because he can.  The type of man to say no because it is within his power to do so, if for no other reason.

Sedric, is unhappy with him and Hest’s situation.  Sedric feels that if they had enough money they could go anywhere and be free of prosecution for their love. However, Hest doesn’t desire the same change.  It would shift the power, make them equals.  Even though Hest is quite clear in his position, Sedric still thinks that riches are the answer to his problems.  He plans on acquiring these riches through dealing in dragon parts, not quite illegal, but if a dragon caught you, you would not live to tell the tale. What bothers me, is how Sedric doesn’t see how ridiculously selfish Hest is.  Heck Sedric even has his own epiphany flashes in that vein and yet still thinks that money will put them on equal footing and make it all better.

Thymara – the girl who is less than girl, closer to dragon.  She signs up to be a dragon keeper.  She is used to a world with rules, were she should have been left for dead at birth.  Were she is not allowed to mate in fear of creating more monsters like herself, defects.  Except you start to see how she could fall for Tats.  The twinges of jealousy.  But she keeps repeating that she is not fit for breeding.

The dragon keepers are a group of youths primarily made up of the rejects of society. The unfit to breed bunch.  Only three girls, to more guys. Tat is the only one who is not of Rainwild decent.  The fact is this group of youngsters is breaking off to from the constraints of society. They will have the opportunity to reform the rules as there will be no one to contradict them. Such possibilities, but do they dare, and how far do they dare?

And then there are the Dragons.  They are pitiful broken creatures, shadows of what dragons really are.  Yet prideful to a fault.  I am very curious how they are going to fair.  I can see how they are beginning to learn how to be a dragon for themselves.  How to hunt.  What they need to become.  But are they willing to do what it takes to survive.  Work their flawed wings?  Help even out their weakened muscles by working them.  I see the shadow of potential for them. Especially with the cover available to view on Amazon.

The Dragons are on a quest to find an old Elderling city were they think they can live like gods.  Or at the very least stop living in the squalor of less than dragon they where living in.  The thing is I think I know where they are going from the previous Farseer books.  The Fitz books.  But it’s like knowing two separate ends of information and I am wondering when the Rainwilders will combine their knowledge with the Six Duchies folk.  Like I know the complete painting, or at least suspect it, but we aren’t there yet, and I can’t wait until we hit that point.

Final Thoughts:

Robin Hobb is a master of waving the proverbial carrot.  There is such hope, yet I know there also has to be great tragedy too.  She doesn’t give away happy endings, she makes you earn them.  There are so many questions and cliff hangers, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book.

Rating: 8/10 Excellent

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