Monday, March 31, 2014

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb (The Rain Wilds Chronicles: Book Two)

Mulluane | 8:30 PM | 4 Comments so far


Centuries had passed since dragons last roamed the war-torn world of the Rain Wild River. But as peace once again settled upon the land, a lost generation of sea serpents—ancient, half-starved, and weary—returned to cocoon, certain that they would be reborn as the beautiful and powerful dragons of legend. But their arduous journey exacted a heavy toll, and the proud serpents emerged as sickly, half-formed beasts, unable to fly or hunt . . . or thrive. For years now they have been trapped on a swampy riverbank between forest and river, hungry and barely alive, reliant on humans to provide for them.

With their survival at stake, fifteen dragons—among them the wise golden Mercor, the haughty and dazzling silver-blue queen Sintara, and the delicate copper beauty Relpda—have set off on a dangerous trek into the unknown, up the Rain Wild River, in hopes of rediscovering the ancient Elderling city of Kelsingra, the lost haven for dragons and Elderlings alike. The dragons are accompanied by a disparate group of human keepers, rejects from Rain Wild society. They, too, yearn to find Kelsingra and create a home of their own, one in which they may make their own rules and decide their own fate. But is Kelsingra real or merely a fragment of a glorified past buried deep in the dragons' shared memories? No map exists to guide them, and the noble creatures find their ancient recollections of little use in a land changed by generations of flooding and seismic chaos.

As the dragons, the humans—including the strong and defiant Rain Wild girl Thymara; the wealthy dragon scholar and Trader's wife, Alise; and her companion, the urbane Sedric—and their magical supply barge, captained by the gruff Leftrin, forge their way ever deeper into uncharted wilderness, human and beast alike discover they are changing in mysterious and dangerous ways. While the bonds between them solidify, starvation, flashfloods, and predators will imperil them all. But dragons and humans soon learn that the most savage threats come from within their own company . . . and not all of them may survive.

*Blurb source Harper Voyager*
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Book Cover of Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb (The Rain Wilds Chronicles: Book Two)

| Source: I have both a personal copy and one from
  Harper Voyager
| 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
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♥ Mini Review ♥
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.

♥ Additional Reviews ♥

Series Summary ~ Book One ~  Book Three ~ Book Four
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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)

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Epic Fantasy Book Review of Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb (The Rain Wilds Chronicles: Book Two) - Reviewed by Mulluane - on March 23, 2014 - Rating: 5 of 5 Stars




Mulluane is a 56-year-old proud grandmother of 4, who is passionate about her pets, blogging, traditional fantasy, and tinkering with webdesign. She is obssesively photo shy but she uses an avatar that accurately represents her dreams. ♥ You can also find her on:

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4 comments :

  1. I wouldn't say I loved this series, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. I liked the character development in these books, because you pretty much nailed it -- that's pretty much all there is. As for why it's labeled epic fantasy, perhaps because it is a part of the wider world of her Realm of the Elderlings? That's personally how I rationalized it, even though I agree, there really isn't much "epicness" in these Rain Wild Chronicles novels.

    ~Mogsy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, sometimes I am such a fangirl when it comes to character-driven fantasy. I tend to feel disconnected if I can't grasp motivation, cause and effect. The beauty is in the balance. I have read character fantasy that was one huge pity party. I suck, you suck, my life sucks and my dogs hate me... and that goes on for pages.

      Robin Hobb's internal dialogs go a bit differently. There is some of the above, then there is usually an internal revelation that leads to some of the characters taking responsibility for atleast part of the problem and taking charge of a solution. I love that. I love the process and I enjoy the results.

      Of course it also makes me want to kick the ones who just don't get it. But that is all part of that lovely balance.

      Delete
  2. I like character-driven fantasy, too. I think I really need to track down this author. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This made me giggle Anne. Check out your comments from FTVE years ago.

      http://dragonsheroesandwizards.blogspot.com/2009/01/farseer-trilogy-series-summary.html

      Delete

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