The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
|Book Name:||The Dragon Keeper|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook|
|Release Date:||March 4, 2010|
In preparation for the release of the next book in the Rain Wild Chronicles this year, I decided to revisit the Cursed Shores and remind myself of the series so far. Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies remain my favourite books of all time and The Dragon Keeper takes us back to the same world, back to the lands discovered in the Liveship Traders trilogy, to continue the tale of what will happen now dragons have returned to the world.
The serpents have waited and struggled long years to finally reach the cocooning grounds, and give the last of their strength and determination to spin the casing that will protect them until they hatch. Young Thymara, a girl heavily marked by The Rain Wilds that are her home, should never have lived. Only her father’s desperation saved her and now, ignoring the scorn her neighbours send her way, she waits and watches from high up in the trees to see the dragons hatch.
Sintara the dragon emerges from her case but something is wrong. She seems to be missing some of her ancestral memories and her wings are not fully formed. There are no Elderlings to greet her with fresh meat and devotion, and the dragon Tintaglia, her guide and protector, is gone. Thymara watches the dragons emerge and when she discovers she can hear the dragons speak, she witnesses the depth of their confusion and self-pity. Now the arrogance of dragons is tested and they realise they may need to rely on human aid if they are to survive at all.
Alise, plain, unmarried daughter of a Bingtown Trader, dreams of dragons. She longs to learn all she can of dragons and Elderlings, and her one true goal in life is to see them in the flesh. It is a far-fetched notion and she laments her position as a girl verging on spinster-hood, tied to her father’s purse strings. That is until Hest, wealthy and handsome trader heir, asks for her hand in marriage. No matter the bargain, Alise soon sees that Hest can help to realise her dream, and The Rain Wilds are no longer and unreachable destination.
Unfortunately, the inadequate dragons become a burden. They are dangerous and expensive to feed, and worse still, the great dragon Tintaglia, who bargained her aid in the human’s war for the protection and care of her serpents, has disappeared. As events unfold, humans and dragons alike realise that their cohabitation is not going to work unless drastic changes are made. The dragons share ancestral memories of a great Elderling city, Kelsingra, which Alise also has some knowledge of. Together, dragon keepers, scholar and hunters alike set out on a quest to find the ancient city in the hope of restoring healthy dragons to the world.
Once again Hobb brings us an amazing study of human behaviour and emotions and allows us to really step inside the main characters and their dilemmas, which range from keeping up social appearances, political and economic crises to the classic struggle of good versus evil, made somewhat more vivid by the depth of her world and the multitude of activities ongoing with each character set.
I felt the story was quite heavy at some points, and as you would expect from the author some of the characters’ burdens were evident and pulled the reader in. At the start of chapters, Hobb uses letters to and from bird keepers in the main cities of Trehaug and Bingtown to illustrate the political and economic situation in The Cursed Shores without the need for laborious descriptive passages. This also adds a sub-plot that is humorous and more light-hearted in contrast to the serious action taking place elsewhere.
What is perhaps disappointing about this book compared to Hobb’s earlier works is that the story doesn’t quite get going and the conflict and constant tension that I so associate with the author isn’t as intense in The Dragon Keeper. The characters and their individual situations are introduced in depth, and all elements to get them journeying to where their paths will meet up and collide is expertly handled; everything put in motion at the same time and slotted together nicely.
The problem is that when I reached the last few pages, the tension was just mounting up, the story was really beginning to come into its own and suddenly I felt desperate to know what would happen next. And then it ended. I think the key is to see this book as the definite beginning to the saga; it has lined everything up to promise an epic tale to come. Perhaps once read it is easy to understand why this series will span beyond a trilogy.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, far from it. It still has everything Robin Hobb about it – a great story, realistic characters, magical settings and classic elements of fantasy. When I read these books, I believe wholly and completely that dragons exist– that is how real this all feels. I was so pleased to get back to the world of my beloved Six Duchies and The Cursed Shores and I am now re-energised to get into the next book in the series in the hope that the story will grow to be as vast and as complex as I anticipate.