Buff Review Show and the Dragon Blood-y Mary
A fantasy-reader’s choice of literary beverage. ‘Natch.
Anyway, just finished the book and wanted to get my thoughts out as soon as possible.
The Dragon Haven
Some things work well in two parts. I can’t imagine trying to condense Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’ into one blood-curdling film, nor would you want to split a game of football into three parts, because you’re essentially giving the players more of a breather between running around with a false limp, or rolling on the floor clutching their face when someone has grazed their shins. So when it comes to ‘The Dragon Haven’ by Robin Hobb, part two of a duet of novels, I am understandably left feeling a little confused by the end of the book on how I feel.
I have mentioned previously when reviewing the first book ‘The Dragon Keeper, in what is collectively known with part two as‘The Rain Wild Chronicles’, that Hobb is famed for writing brilliant trilogies and some standalone novels that don’t cross paths with the worlds and characters of the trilogies. This tale indeed intended to just be a standalone novel, following on directly from the second of Hobb’s trilogies, known as ‘The Liveship Traders’. The manuscript unfortunately became too large and would have been just over one thousand pages in length. The decision was made to split the books, but I am not sure if that aided the tale, or hindered it.
In ‘The Dragon Keeper’ we met our four principle characters. Firstly Sintara, a young girl “tainted” from birth by the traits of those touched by the Rain Wild River that flows through the cities of Trehaug and Cassarick; scales, claws and sharpened teeth all being associated with those who are more touched by the river than other. Captain Leftrin, a man with a ship crafted from Wizardwood, a substance known for it’s special ability to not be chewed up and damaged by the acidic water of the Rain Wild River, is drafted by the council in Trehaug to traverse the river to find a home for the dragons that hatched in the city five years previously, stunted, shameful creatures that can barely look after themselves, a far cry from the creatures of lore once spoken of with high regard. Two passengers aboard his boat from Bingtown, the trading capital of the southern regions in which these novels are set, include Alise Kincarron Finbok, a self professed dragon scholar, and her husband’s secretary Cedric, a strange fop of a man sent to accompany Alise on her journey as punishment for his support to her husband to allow her to make such a trip.
Without obviously spoiling the events of the first book, the second follows almost directly from the first, including the little sub-story at the start of each chapter, in the form of carrier pigeons messages sent from to bird keepers, one in Trehaug and one in Bingtown. Now in the first book it seemed unclear as to the purpose of these little chapter starters, as they didn’t really cross over at all with the main story, and acted more as just a date and time for us to know how much time passed between chapters. This is developed more in ‘The Dragon Haven’ and actually is truly enjoyable to see how things develop, link in a little bit to the main story, and how their story ends. This was strangely more satisfying to read than the ending, or the feel of the ending, to the main story itself.
The problem I think I have is, that, if this were a single novel, and it had been slightly shorter to make such a thing happen, I think the ending would have been more satisfying, or indeed if what ended up being two books had been fleshed out further and made into three books, a full trilogy, again I think I would have felt better after finishing it. However something in me just felt that how the book ended didn’t seem to fit right. The characters who remained with us all got to where they were going, and it was set up that obviously they had done their best to complete whatever objectives they were going for, personal and professional, and it just ended. I don’t know if I was expecting the ending to be more magical, or more fantastical, but the distance travelled and the changes experienced by the characters present just seem to be bigger and far more interesting than how it was all wrapped up in the last few pages.
Imagine the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but instead of getting the third film, we get an extra ten minutes at the end of the second film, in which Frodo and Sam find a way to teleport to Mordor, chuck the ring into the fires of Mt. Doom, and make it back to The Shire in time for a quick pint and a merry jig.
I don’t think I can class it as disappointment. Not at all. I loved the story that was told and the characters added to the Robin Hobb universe are all brilliant in their own right. And upon concluding the novel I decided to check out some fantasy literature forums I belong to scouring down info and other readers opinions. Much of the thoughts were along the same track as my own, loved the characters and the continuation of the previous trilogies works, but not entirely certain on that ending.
And then something else cropped up, much to my surprise at first, and then about five nanoseconds later all sense of surprise fled my body and was replaced with a mixture of knowing and anticipation. There was, upon Hobb’s decision to split the manuscript into two parts, the possibility for her to add a third novel, continuing the story of the voyage of the Liveship Tarman, previously mentioned as the ship captained by Leftrin, following on from the events of ‘The Dragon Haven’. Not two comments later, I found out that this volume of the story was ALSO now to be split into two parts. So what started off as a standalone novel, will now span four books, the third and fourth of which will be released a few months apart in 2012, likely to be sometime in April, and then late summer to early autumn, for what have been titled ‘City of Dragons’ and ‘Dragon Blood’ respectively.
So am I happy in knowing that the story, perhaps, is not entirely over? Yes, absolutely. Knowing that now, this book feels more like the an unfinished part of a whole mass of dragons, Liveships, serpents, love and tragedy, as well as a novel that itself has a start, middle and end. It just so happens that the end of this book is just the beginning of another. I’ve just got the nagging problem that the next part is going to be some ten months away…