The Dragon Keeper (Rain Wilds Chronicles, Bk 1)
The Dragon Keeper - Rain Wilds Chronicles, Bk 1 Author:Robin Hobb Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River, the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and impenetrable forest, it is a hard place for any to survive. — People are changed ... more »by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other aberrations, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the return of dragons: it is as if they symbolize the return of hope to their war-torn world.
Leftrin, captain of the liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching; as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life's work to study all there is to know of dragons. But the creatures which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly; some seem witless and bestial. Soon, they become a danger and a burden to the Rain Wilders: something must be done.
The dragons claim an ancestral memory of a fabled Elderling city far upriver: perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But Kelsingra appears on no maps and they cannot get there on their own: a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them. To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job: their charges are vicious and unpredictable, and there are many unknown perils on the journey to a city which may not even exist...« less
I had waited a long time for this series to begin. Now I learn that this is really the first half of what was to be a single book. I'm disappointed in that because Robin Hobb is great at world building and character development. She also has a very readable style. Reading this book was a pleasure after some of the recent books I've forced myself through.
But about this book: It has gotten panned by many reader/reviewers who have liked her previous books. They say there is no action and little story. They are right that it is quieter than the Liveship trilogy. But it's very big on character development. I enjoyed reading about people from effectively 2 different worlds becoming fellow travelers in a hostile "jungle" environment. I enjoyed reading about dragons that are less than they are expected to be. It is a story about flawed individuals and how they learn to work together with a subtle and unrecognized "villain" in their midst. The book doesn't build to a big cliffhanger since it is only half of a conceived single book. But I do look forward to reading the second half which comes out in a couple of months (the 2 halves out within about 6 months of each other). The goal of the travelers is to make it to a fabled city of the extinct (but maybe not extinct) Elderlings and home to all the previous great but gone dragons of this world. It is about recovering memories and unknown histories. It is about love and honor. It is about people (and dragons) with physical "defects" living full lives despite society's rules against it.
It is very readable, and I enjoyed every line. I recommend it if you can enjoy a lower level action but rich with description story.