Backlist Burndown Review: Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #1
Also by this author: Fool's Assassin
Published by Harper Voyager on September 25th 2012
Also in this series: Dragon Haven
Too much time has passed since the powerful dragon Tintaglia helped the people of the Trader cities stave off an invasion of their enemies. The Traders have forgotten their promises, weary of the labor and expense of tending earthbound dragons who were hatched weak and deformed. If neglected, the creatures will rampage—or die—so itis decreed that they must move farther upriver toward Kelsingra, the mythical homeland whose location is locked deep within the dragons’ uncertain ancestral memories.
Thymara, an unschooled forest girl, and Alise, wife of an unloving and wealthy Trader, are among the disparate group entrusted with escorting the dragons to their new home. And on an extraordinary odyssey with no promise of return, many lessons will be learned—as dragons and tenders alike experience hardships, betrayals...and joys beyond their wildest imaginings.
It took me a while to get to this series, and I’m not entirely sure why since I count Robin Hobb as one of my favorite authors. I also have to confess to reading the different series that make up The Realm of the Elderlings in the wrong order as I was ignorant of how much interconnection there is between all of them. So, lesson learned. Going into this series (The Rain Wilds Chronicles), I have read all the other published books that make up Realm of the Elderlings (for those unfamiliar, it is comprised of The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders Trilogy, The Rain Wilds Chronicles and The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy). That means I have read books both preceding and following this trilogy. I will be very upfront, reading the books/series out of order is a mistake. I really had no idea how much connected between them. But now I do, and even with my unique reading order, I am really enjoying this. Actually, I have to confess to enjoying knowing some of the connections that come from my knowledge of The Fitz and the Fool books, but I would have preferred to have read them in order and made the connections as they were presented.
This book starts with the hatching of the cocoons created by the serpents at the end of The Liveship Traders. These poor things were not given the proper start at life as they should have been. The journey they made to cocoon was far from ideal and took its price. And as a result, the hatched dragons are sorry things that dependent on humans and confined by their lack of flight. It is an interesting situation as dragons are born with memories of their ancestors, so they are very aware of the shortcomings and the life they are missing.
We get a much closer look at life in the Rain Wilds and what it is like to grow up “heavily touched” by the Rain Wilds. This is an area that we have seen bits of in Liveship Traders, but it was never focused on to the extent it is here. While most people in the Rain Wilds are “touched” in some way (meaning they have physical characteristics that resemble dragon traits), there are those that go beyond just the bit of scaling that many have. Thymara is a protagonist who is one of those that even by Rain Wilds standards is considered an outcast by her level of change. It’s hard not to like Thymara and her relationship with her father is touching. I also really respected her desire to do more than her father expected of her, to look for something to do with her life.
Alise is a character that I have had a bumpier ride with. Don’t get me wrong, I like her, but there are some aspects of her personality that could make cringe at times. She is the daughter of a Bingtown trader family, but hers is not a wealthy family, and she is not terribly attractive. As she passed prime marrying age without a single suitor, she has resigned to a life of spinsterhood, until suddenly she has, for some reason, caught the eye of Hest Finback, a wealty and very handsome Trader son. Of course, as we all know, if something seems too good to be true, there is liable to be a reason. It’s just a matter of if Alise can ever truly see that reason. But even if she does, she may see the business logic in not being alone the rest of her life. She can be terribly practical. While she was anticipating spending her days alone as a spinster, she decided to take up an unusual hobby as a women, and pursue studying dragons and Elderlings. This is the part of her personality I like, her drive to do something other than just sit and embroider, and plan party and decorate. You know, all the expected hobbies of a “proper” young woman. (boring!) Alise broke from the mold by pursuing her own interests, and I had to admire her for that trait.
I loved the intersection of the Rain Wilds characters and Alise’s storyline, bringing Bingtown and Rain Wilds together. I enjoyed seeing appearances and hearing references to characters I grew to love from Hobb’s other books and am so glad I finally am filling in this gap in my reading. Books like this reinforce my decision to do a Backlist Burndown. Dragon Keeper is the start of a journey that is making me binge read this series. So, yeah. I am glad I finally made time for this one!
I have challenged and committed myself to reading at least one book from my backlist every month and posting the review on the last Friday of the month. I invite anyone interested to join me and link up their own Backlist Burndown reviews. I will offer the link at the bottom of my monthly Backlist Burndown reviews, and also will keep a running record of the reviews on my Dracarys! Backlist Burndown page available from my top menu.