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| Source: I have both a personal copy and one from
| Author: Robin Hobb
| Genre: Epic Fantasy
| Content: Dragons, Coming-of-Age
| ISBN-10: 0061931411
| ISBN-13: 9780061931413
| Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reprint edition
(September 25, 2012)
| Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
| Cover Art by Steve Stone
| Rating: 5 Stars
Dragon Haven takes all that was good in Dragon Keeper and ramps things up a notch. More character development, more conflict and more action. If you liked book one, you'll like this book even better.
Epic Fantasy Book Review by Mulluane
♦ My Thoughts. This is a series that is signature Robin Hobb. There is sporadic action, a few thrills, chills, catastrophes and plenty of conflict but mainly it is about characters. Each is distinctly individual and while some share common backgrounds, each experienced those backgrounds in vastly different ways. The dragons too are as unique as their keepers. They are arrogant, wise, self-serving, insecure, quick to anger, loving, cruel, affectionate, in a word, complex. Only one really takes center stage, ie we get to ride inside of her head on occasion, but we "see" enough of the rest to get a feel for their personalities.
Robin Hobb also uses this story as a platform to explore prejudices of all kinds. There is alot of class bias, and gender bias. You have dragons who believe they are superior to humans (and often each other.) But they are not much different from the wealthy Traders who pretty much look down on everybody and everything. You have former slaves who were promised a place within the Rain Wilds society as "equals." A promise that was well intended but far from kept. You have the Rain Wilders themselves who are "marked" over time by their harsh environment. The more heavily marked they are, the less they are accepted, and sometimes resort to veiling their disfigured faces in an act of self defense. And there is worse. A child who is born already drastically affected is usually killed at birth. There is also sexual bias. Same sex relationships are not considered acceptable behavior among the more elite trader and merchant classes and must be hidden at all cost. Fortunately this doesn't seem to be a huge issue with the so called "outcasts". Funny how that works... And while there are plenty of strong female leads both with and without positions of power, there are still plenty of people who have definite ideas as to what constitutes a woman's "place" in society.
The range and complexity of the societies and the characters who live within them makes for a fascinating exploration into human (and dragon) nature.
♦ What I Liked. I am hands down, a lover of character-driven fantasy. I've always been fascinated with the why behind how people think, feel, act and react. I want it to be ugly when it needs to be, endearing at times and tragic at others. And I want development. It can be forwards, backwards or even sideways but as long as the characters change in some way, I am happy.
Suffice it to say, I am very happy.
And the changes are not all internal. All of the main characters are changing physically. Some of the changes are due to environmental factors, some to the rigors of survival, some are induced by the dragons and some are due to the natural process of growing up. And the environment? It goes through some major changes too. No I'm not going to elaborate. That would be "tellin."
♦ What I didn't like. Well, it is not so much what I didn't like but more like what I know some people won't like. There is more action than there was in Dragon Keeper but overall the pace is still fairly slow. Now this is both a good and a bad thing depending on how you look at it. For rollicking non-stop action fans, this is a bad thing and you'll likely be bored to tears. For character development loving fans, this is close to perfect. For me it makes little difference. I try to enjoy a book for what it is. If it is a tense, edge of your seat action adventure, I'm all in. If it is a slow journey to nowhere that allows for copious amounts of time inside the characters' heads, I'm all for that too. All depends on the reader's tastes or even mood.
I do have one little nitpicking annoyance. I can't for the life of me figure out why this series is labeled Epic Fantasy. It is secondary world and there is magic though I would consider it to be peripheral at best but there is no world wide conflict of good versus evil. There are some bad people who do bad things but only a few. The journey upriver could easily be called epic but it is only part of the story. Plenty of things are going on in other cities and some even in other countries. I am not sure what it is exactly but the personal nature of the stories combined with dragons, liveships, serpents and elderlings makes it feel closer to High Fantasy to me. Sadly I guess high fantasy conjures up visions of tired old tropes so you rarely see it used anymore. Doesn't really matter much in the overall scheme of things. A good book is a good book, no matter how you "label" it. It just bothers me as a reviewer because I feel like calling it epic fantasy gives readers a misguided impression of what to expect.
♦ Conclusion. If you read my last review (you DID read it right?) you might recall that I called that book a series of journeys. Well this one is a series of changes. Some are gradual, some are drastic and some are even fatal. Everything changes. The characters, the dragons, the scenery and even the odds of survival are changed, several times and in some fascinating ways. Because I am such a fierce lover of deeply emotional character driven fantasy, this rates as another 5 stars for me. It is going on my reread shelf to be savored time and time again.
Series Summary ~ Book One ~ Book Three ~ Book Four
Librarything Rating 3.98/5
Amazon Rating 4.2 out of 5 stars
(220 Customer Reviews)
What Should I Read Next?
Kindle: Dragon Haven (Rain Wilds Chronicles, Vol. 2)
Audible: Available Here
Buy Book: Books-A-Million ~ AbeBooks
Amazon: US ~ Canada ~ UK
Epic Fantasy Book Review of Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb (The Rain Wilds Chronicles: Book Two) - Reviewed by Mulluane - on March 23, 2014 - Rating: of 5 Stars