Book Review: Dragon Keeper

Dragon Keeper

Author: Robin Hobb

Published: 2010

As promised, DRAGONS!  Robin Hobb is the author of the Farseer trilogy, a highly regarded fantasy series.  I was hopeful that I would find it at the Denver Public Library’s used book sale.  I didn’t, but I got the next best thing – Dragon Keeper, Book 1 of the Rain Wilds Chronicles.  While it is the first book in the series, it is related to the Liveship Traders Trilogy.  I haven’t read that trilogy yet either, but it has also been subject to high acclaim.  There are a couple crossover characters, but they are minor characters and previous knowledge didn’t hinder the understanding of the book.  They were intriguing enough that I wanted to know more about them despite their minimal appearance – I might have to go back and read the first trilogy.

For reasons I don’t understand, I’ve been told that writing prologues will result in an agents’ rejection.  This prologue read like a short story.  Serpents travel up a river to cocoon – the final stage before becoming a dragon.

The first chapter picks up several months later and contains my favorite passage:

“It was a strange impulse, one he had no conscious rationale for, and yet he recognized it for the kind of itch it was.  It came, he knew, from the unremembered dreams of the night before.  He reached for them, but the tattered shreds became threads of cobweb in his mind’s grasp, and then were gone.”

Beautifully written and also completely true.

The newly hatched dragons are deformed.  They lack wings, are sickly, or otherwise unable to take care of themselves.  The burden of feeding the dragons falls on the local town which signed a treaty with the mother dragon to take care of the dragons until they are able to care for themselves.

Over the next 200 pages five years pass and it feels like it, because nothing happens.  On page 286, I proclaimed, “finally!”  After years of both the dragons and the humans being frustrated with the situation, the dragons convince the humans to take them to Kelsingra (each dragon has their ancestors’ memories, and they all remember this land of dragons).  The town council gathers outcasts to volunteer to take the dragons to this potentially mythical land of dragons.  Each outcast will be responsible for the care of a dragon – thus a Dragon Keeper.  Once the story started, it ended.  I felt a little deprived, but Hobb succeeded in making me want to read the next book.

Despite the slow plot, the characters are well-created, and each individual POV was distinct (unlike some other book I recently reviewed).  The POV’s include dragons and humans – allowing the reader to see both sides of the story.  While the dragons are frustrated by the lack of food and care they received they are unable to see the burden they placed the care for such large creatures on such a tiny village.

The most intriguing character, Sedric – a human – is presented in such a way as to make you wonder if he is good or evil.  I hated him and I spent the entire book wondering if I was supposed to hate him.  That question is answered by the end of the book.  I won’t spoil it for those who have yet to read Dragon Keeper.

A very slow start to this novel nearly submarined Dragon Keeper.  Hobb, however, managed to create a well-written novel with fascinating characters and left you wanting more.  Though I think I’ll pick up Liveship Traders before I move on to book two of Rain Wilds Chronicles.

WWYT Rating: 7.1 (though the second half picked up)

Goodreads Rating: 3.9/5


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