Dragon Keepers (Rain Wilds Chronicles #1)

Dragon Keeper
by Robin Hobb
Published: Harper Collins/Eos
review copy provided by the kind folks at Harper Collins/Eos

In Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper, she sets up a new series in the world presented in her Liveship Traders series. This time, the story centers around the citizens of The Rain Wilds, and Bingtown, when a troop of sea serpents comes to the Rain Wilds shores to nest, hopeful of becoming the latest in the long-thought-dead dragon lines.

However, when the newborn dragons hatch, problems begin to present themselves: the animals are scrawny, malformed and thoroughly unable to care for themselves. The citizens decide to take on the feeding and care of the animals, however, no one guessed that, twenty or so years later, they would still be bearing the brunt of that care. Now the Rain Wilds Council has to decide what to do.

Meanwhile, there is woven within this story of dragons, and duty, lives of several Rain Wilds youths—Thymara, a malformed girl, touched by the Rain Wilds who has lived all her life in the pastoral tree top communities; her friend Tats, an immigrant, mistrusted son of a thief. There’s Alise, a Bingtown woman, armchair dragon scholar, who married a Bingtown Trader, Hest, who cares for his work and his friends far more than he cares for his wife. And there’s Alise’s friend-cum-escort Sedric, who cares very much for how Alise’s husband does in the world, half-the-time, and half-the-time hates his old friend, especially when it comes out that Hest isn’t exactly living up to the vows he made Alise in their wedding contract—a very un-Trader like thing to do.

All these stories diverge, and diverge, until they’re suddenly brought together by the Liveships, and the dragons, and the Rain Wilds Council’s scheme to get the dragons to the fabled Kelsingra. It affords the young Thymara and Tats a chance to see more of life, the same for Alise, while she plans to study the dragons more closely, and as for Sedric, well, he’s got a plan for the dragons, himself.

To be honest, I didn’t think much of  Robin Hobb’s earlier Assassin series, so when the folks at Eos (Harper Collins) offered me this one, I accepted it reluctantly. But now, having read Dragon Keeper, I am converted, having quite enjoyed this novel, despite the sluggishness of some of the scenes. I’m pleased to say, Dragon Keeper is written in a style I think all lovers of true dragon fantasy novels will love. Replete with the romance (yes, actual romance too, in spots), lush landscapes and language that traditional fantasy has always been known for—and even the tradition of tackling social issues, (unless I’m mistaken) that fantasy likes to address sometimes, Dragon Keeper is a rich, hefty read. The Liveships, the characters are endearing, and (without going into any spoilers) the payoff is worth the read—and has this reader looking forward to the follow-up.*, and even delving back for another try into her earlier works! :)

 So, if you love good fantasy, and especially dragon tales, do check out Robin Hobb’s Dragon Keeper. You will not be disappointed!

My rating?

You can find this one at Barnes and Noble, Borders, or Amazon; (or from my Amazon store (pretty please?))
*book 2, Dragon Haven, released in May.
(A version of this article is also posted at the Examiner here. If you would, please give us a hit? ;) Thnx!)