Buff Review Show- Reads a Book ZOMGZ!!!1 and so forth…
Expect a few more book reviews in the coming weeks ladies and gentlemen.
This was from my radio show today, alongside the Pirates4 and Lady Gaga reviews I have already posted in the past week, so please enjoy.
WARNING: Don’t normally have to do this, but this follows on from a number of books in the same universe/world, so while I have tried to make it spoiler free(ish) as possible, for the sake of explaining the plot of this book like a real review, I have to address some things from previous books which obviously lead to this one.
“The Dragon Keeper”- Robin Hobb
Now, as far as fantasy novelists go, there are few better than Robin Hobb in my estimation, whom is the author of three particular trilogies of fantasy novels that all take place in the same universe (amongst many other works of course), but each one is normally a different set of characters or situation and time period, but they all follow on loosely from each other (usually references to events and persons of note) and some characters do leap across from one to another.
The 1st and 3rd sagas, The Farseer Trilogy and the Tawny Man Trilogy, take place in the realms of the Six Duchies, and follow bastard prince FitzChivalry and his mysterious companion, and lifelong friend, The Fool. The 2nd trilogy, set between the 1st and 3rd, take place in the land far to the south of the Six Duchies, and is set around the sailing merchants that live along the coast and trade to the varying far off locations in Robin Hobb’s world. The 2nd trilogy, The Liveship Traders, takes a different approach to the narrative than the 1st and 3rd, which take us through the story exclusively first person from the point of view of FitzChivalry. In The Liveship Traders novels, we follow a selection of characters important to the plot, all of whom are linked and cross over at various points during the plot of the three books. It is this area of the Robin Hobb world we return to, the land of the Live Ship Traders.
The Dragon Keeper was originally intended as a stand-alone novel, advancing us a little further through the timeline and following on from the events of both the second and third trilogies. But with the manuscript becoming too long for a single conventional novel, and the story she wanted to tell not expansive enough (at the time) to try and spread across a trilogy, it was decided the book was to be split in to two halves, The Dragon Haven being released the following year (which I still haven’t read yet, and will start soon, as my mountain of books has subsided slightly).
Without spoiling too much plot of the relevant trilogies, this follows on closest from The Liveship Traders, and the first few chapters introduce us to the new focal characters, seeing snippets of each of them over the course of about five years. Dragons have been guided to a new home, having swam upstream the Rain Wild River, a long, coiling body of water thick with poisonous and toxic particles, lethal to most ships, humans and animals, and not even entirely safe for dragons. The dragons have hatched but are miserable, malformed creatures due to the events of the second trilogy which brought them to be in this state. After some years of feeding them, the people of Trehaug, a lush and green city along the Rain Wild River which is populated with those “touched” by the river, whose attributes are sometimes small scaly growths or warts from the waters effects, who live not just on the ground, but in houses and buildings high up in the canopy and amongst the branches of the thousand-year old trees which dwell here. There are plenty of rich and vivid locations in here, from Trehaug right back to Bingtown, the setting for the Liveship Traders trilogy.
So the Dragon Keeper follows four main characters from their respective points of view, and the cast here is nicely sized and varied, as is always the case with Robin Hobb’s work. It isn’t as vast as the previous trilogies, but again you must remember this was originally a standalone novel which just became too big for a single book. I mean the two books together are about 1100 pages, which isn’t obscene but if just a little too much perhaps for one book, very few standalone books, even in fantasy, are more than 1000 pages, unless they are from highly established authors, so it made sense for this to be two books, collectively know as The Rain Wild Chronicles: Volumes One and Two.
I mentioned that some people are “touched” by the Rain Wilds, and one such character is Thymara, a young girl who lives with her parents amongst the braches of Trehaug. Thymara is marked more than most Rain Wilders, and at birth should probably have been exterminated, as is the case with those born as scaled or as “changed” as she was. The thinking being that those who are afflicted strongly at birth by the Rain Wilds should not be allowed to live, and certainly not breed, because who knows if the children will be more “touched” than human, more mutant than man. But Thymara has big dreams and wants to get out of the place and where people look at her in the street as if she is a monster, and treat her as nothing more than a mistake.
Then there is Captain Leftrin of the Liveship Tarmin, whose own interests in the dragons and their hatching will draw him into the fray to aid the dragons, as it is soon decided that the people of Trehaug will no long assist in the care of the stunted creatures that have blighted their land and caused them no end of troubles for nearly five years. And what will outsiders Alise Finbok and her husbands secretary, Sedric, makes of matters; she being a scholar in search of fulfilling her calling in life, despite the pressure from others to settle and just be a housewige, and he, an odd and misplaced fellow who doesn’t know where his life is taking him.
All paths converge to Trehaug, to dragons, and soon to the home that the former self-proclaimed lords of the land, sea and sky, are searching for. It is the home that, in their memories and the memories of their ancestors stored within them, they once lived and belonged, alongside the Elderlings; a vastly superior race of humans with slight traits of dragons to them. These poor creatures have an understanding, an inkling, of this former glorious home of theirs, known only as Kelsingra, and known only by rough idea that it is further upriver than anybody has ever been able to chart before, due to the nature of the river water.
The book sets everything up nicely for Volume Two- The Dragon Haven, which I will review in a few weeks time as and when I get it finished, but until then go out and find The Dragon Keeper, and in the future I may bring to you more of the Robin Hobb trilogies (but maybe working through them chronologically for you, which would have made more sense, but oh well).