Monday, April 7, 2014

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb (Rain Wilds Chronicles: Book One)

Mulluane | 1:00 PM | 4 Comments so far

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 it is 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.

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Book Cover of Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb (Rain Wilds Chronicles: Book One)

| Author: Robin Hobb
| Genre: Epic Fantasy
| Content: Dragons, Coming-of-Age
| ISBN-10: 0061561657
| ISBN-13: 9780061561658
| Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reprint edition (September 25, 2012)
| Mass Market Paperback: 528 pages
| Cover Art by Jackie Morris
| Source: Personal copy
| Rating: 4 Stars
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♥ Mini Review ♥
Dragon Keeper continues a storyline started in Robin Hobb's Liveship Trilogy. It asks the question, what happened to the remnants of the dragon population? The answer isn't pretty but it is a great setup for a story of survival against impossible odds.

Epic Fantasy Book Review by Mulluane

♦ My Thoughts. First of all, do not expect a story on the same level as Liveships or Farseer because you will be disappointed. This is probably the best advice I have ever given. Far too many people go into this tale expecting perfection, not getting it, and completely missing the fact that this is a very good story. There is nothing wrong with good. Expecting an author to write 5 star, exceptional, award winning fantasy every single time is not only unreasonable, it is not very likely. So my thought is, as long as you don't expect it to be something it is not, you won't end up frustrated by what it is.

My second thought is that this is not a story to read without reading Liveships first. Even though there are scenes that try to give you enough info to grasp what is going on but they don't quite succeed. They were enough to remind me of certain points I had forgotten but for somebody new to this world I don't believe they would be nearly enough. But hey! I could tell you worse things than read the Liveship Trilogy first. That trilogy rocks!

My third thought is the need for a clarification of the main subject of this story. On the surface it is about dragons but what I took away from it was wonderful characters. Yes the dragons play a major role. Yes they are as individual as the characters. But I didn't feel like they were the main focus of this tale. Granted the dragons are a very close second but my gut says they will be taking center stage later in the series. Instead this book focuses mainly on the young keepers and their older escorts and guides. Not a bad thing since people is what Robin Hobb does so well but if you were hoping on all dragons all the time, that isn't quite going to happen.

♦ What I Liked. This tale is part adventure, part coming of age, part romance, part discovery of self (for the adults.) Discovery of self and coming of age is something Robin Hobb excels at in her characters. She pushes the players in this drama well outside of their comfort zones and presents them with challenges that force them to acknowledge their faults and shortcomings. And you take this journey with them, every painful step of the way. It spoke to my character loving heart. Sometimes you want to hug them. Mostly you want to scream, smack, shake and knock them upside the head for missing the obvious and making really bad choices. Of course you also want to cheer when they finally "get it."

I also loved those selfish, arrogant, self-absorbed dragons. They too have a rough road to travel. They can no longer fly, kill for themselves, or even remember all of the things they should have known at birth. Some are truly pathetic, have no ancestral memories at all, can't even remember their own names and are so badly deformed they can barely function. However none of this stops the stronger dragons from viewing humans as beneath them, of little worth other than servants to their every whim. In other words, they are definitely dragons at heart, despite all of their handicaps.

My other favorite part of this tale is the various group dynamics. You have the harmony of the crew of the escort barge. There is the constant struggle for leadership and survival among the dragon keepers. There are the conundrums involved in a group of dragons, normally very solitary creatures, having to work together towards a common goal. There are secrets, lies and betrayals, all adding delightful spice to the journey.

♦ What I didn't like. This book is really slow. I think mainly due to the info dumps contained within the huge amount of time the characters spend replaying their past histories. Some people may not see it that way. They believe there are no info dumps at all but unfortunately I disagree. Every time someone examines events from their "old" life (events that happened before this journey began) those memories contain important backstory, in vivid detail. Granted comparing the past to the present is an integral part of "discovery of self" but the amount of meticulous detail slows things down. I am hoping that this book has successfully covered all the backstory needed and book two can now focus on moving quickly forward.

♦ Conclusion. Best way to sum up this tale is by calling it a series of journeys. At the core is the slow, tortuous travel up a shallow, uncharted, acid filled river, in search of a home for the dragons which may not even exist. Then you have the journey into adulthood by the young keepers, each fighting to prove their worth in a world which considers them worthless. There are the personal journeys of discovery. And those revelations are never very pleasant. Almost nobody, including the dragons, remains unchanged, and some of those changes may surprise you. And the best part? These journeys are just beginning. I predict that many transformations still lie ahead.

♥ Additional Reviews ♥

Series Summary ~ Book Two ~ Book Three ~ Book Four

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Librarything Rating 3.84/5

Amazon Rating 3.9 out of 5 stars
(282 Customer Reviews)

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Kindle: Dragon Keeper (Rain Wilds Chronicles, Vol. 1)

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Epic Fantasy Book Review of Dragon Keeper (Rain Wilds Chronicles: Book One) by Robin Hobb - Reviewed by Mulluane - on March 14, 2014 - Rating: 4 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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  1. The only one of Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings series that I have read to completion...because DRAGONS!

    Agreed that it's totally different from Farseer. I actually like Rain Wilds better, though I know most people usually feel the opposite. I still have the third book of Farseer to read while I just devoured all the books in this one. And yes, now I need to go back and read the Liveship books, knowing the connections now.


    1. I'm one of those diehard Farseer fans. I adored that series but I enjoyed this one too. (So far, 3 books to go.) I love stories about misfits and this story is flat out full of them. Maybe too many and that is why I don't feel the connection to this series as strongly.

      Then there is the fact that Farseer was written in first person POV and that is something some people just don't like. For me, it created a strong bond and total immersion but I understand that it puts some people off. They prefer a much broader view.

      And Liveships, omg, the whole tragic but awesome concept was so unique I was literally enthralled.

      Thanks so much for taking time to comment! I live for these yanno... I promise to return the favor :>)

  2. I think I need to go to the library check out this author. Mom has the middle one of her Liveship trilogy, and the first two of her Tawny Man trilogy, and that's it. Dad and I don't seem to have her books at all. Since some of her story arcs are complete, I'd rather start with something I can follow from beginning to end without too much waiting in the middle. {Smile, wink}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    1. Oh yes yes yes yes. Please do. I have some idea as to your tastes and I'll be stunned if you don't love both series.

      And thank heavens your avatar is back! I searched and searched for a reason why you had morphed into a gray circle to no avail.


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