Another Robin Hobb novel, because Emily at Embuhlee Liest and I are just knocking them out quickly. We’re that hooked on the story.
Dragon Haven, the second book in the series, felt like the story’s true beginning. We followed the characters’ quest up the Rain Wild River to seek a new location for the newly hatched dragons.
The dragons hatched malformed due to difficulties they faced as serpents in trying to weave a cocoon, and many others died before they could emerge from their cocoon. Others hatched so disabled that they were unable to survive long. However, Dragon Haven ended on a positive note with the dragons finally in Kelsingra and readers left wondering what will happen next now that they’ve arrived at the Elderling city.
Rain Wild Chronicles, book 3
Realm of the Elderlings, book 12
The dragon keepers and fledgling dragons have discovered a route to the lost city of Kelsingra but there is one problem: they need to be able to fly to cross the treacherous waters and enter the fabled city. At first, only a few dragons are willing to try – the others are either too ashamed of their deformed wings and feeble muscles or too proud to risk failure and humiliation.
But the rewards waiting at Kelsingra for those brave enough to take to the air are worth more than they could possibly imagine. This was a city built for dragons and their keepers. Alise Finbok is overwhelmed by the treasures she finds there, and spends hours carefully uncovering wonder after wonder, recording her findings for posterity. She knows the knowledge will change everything the world thought about dragons and the Elderlings.
Yet rumours of the city’s discovery have floated down the Rain Wild River and reached envious ears in Bingtown and beyond. Adventurers, pirates and fortune hunters are coming in droves to pillage what they can from the city. Will the dragons, only just finding their strength, and their keepers, who are changing in their own mysterious ways, be able to fend them off?
And what has happened to Tintaglia, the dragon-mother who started it all? Has she really abandoned her offspring forever? Or will she too return to seek the riches of Kelsingra… (Goodreads)
My thoughts: (spoilers!)
I’ve already started the fourth and last book in the Rain Wild Chronicles, so now it feels that story in each book is dissolving into one seamless telling in my mind. However, I do remember that I enjoyed this installment more than the previous two, though this is shorter in length.
The reasons why I enjoyed this more are the highly intense scenes and deeply emotionally moments that had me on edge as I read. Those moments all occurred in the Rain Wilds when the Tarman returned to Cassarrick to refresh its supplies, collect payment for the journey for the ship’s crew and the dragon keepers, and send letters to the questers’ families.
My favorite moments: When Leftrin met with Cassarrick traders counsel and told them they can’t have his maps until they pay him and the keepers. I laughed my ass off because they didn’t expect the quest to be a success. My other favorite moment is after Malta gave birth. She defended herself and her newborn (such a badass mom!) and sought the Tarman for help. That part where she’s crying out to Tarman to help her almost brought me to tears.
I lied. Not all my favorite moments happened in the Rain Wilds. Some occurred in Kelsingra too. The main one is when Thymara and Rapskal hook up. I was rooting for them to be together and Thymara to stop being so uptight (though I understand her concerns). I thought this happening would make Thymara’s perspective more bearable to read from, but no. Still annoying. It wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t obsess about the same things over and over and over again. It’s tiring. So though I wish Thymara was one of my favorite characters, she’s not. I find her annoying. And neither is Sintara because she’s frustrating.
Despite how Alise is deservedly reprimanded toward the end of this book for harboring Kelsingra for herself, she is still my favorite. I just think she needed to be reminded that Kelsingra is not for her alone and only to be studied. I think she’s held onto Kelsingra so long as some sort of salvation or extended definition of herself that she failed to realize Kelsingra belongs to the dragons and the keepers, who will become Elderlings, and if they are going to live in that part of the world, Kelsingra will be, and should be, put to use. Anyway, I like her development so far in this story. She’s coming into her own and that’s obvious in the fourth book.
There are a few things I didn’t expect. First is Tintaglia and Icefyre: Who knew these two lovebirds would pop up again? The last I saw them in the Tawney Man books, they were so enraptured in their mating that they seemed not to care for anyone or thing else. Tintaglia certainly has abandoned the dragons she pushed the Rain Wilders to save and hasn’t thought much about the Elderlings she has made — Selden, Malta, Reyn. But I should have known better since Hobb doesn’t leave loose ends.
I was surprised to see that Tintaglia and Icefyre were being hunted and that there’s a history of humans (seems to be mainly the Chalcedeans) hunting dragons. Well, so Icefyre says, but I think he’s a touch insane due to his long encasement in the iceberg. By the way, the more I read, the more it seems that Icefyre doesn’t care deeply for Tintaglia or doesn’t harbor romantic feelings for her. I wonder if dragons experience emotions such as love for another dragon. They are solitary creatures and are often cold toward others that it’s easy sometimes to think them uncaring.
Another surprise was the Duke of Chalced. We get to read from his perspective. I didn’t relish it. I hate the man. He’s an evil, abhorrent human being and reminds me of Kennit and Regal. I think all evilness in this series of books stem from him. I hope he gets eaten by a dragon. I don’t have much to say about him because we don’t know much about him as yet other than he’s old, feeble, manipulative, greedy, and needs to die a painful death! That last chapter with Selden’s skin…EWW!!! I hope he’s poisoned.
Speaking of Selden, he was a huge surprise. I started this book wondering if I missed a whole chapter in the previous book, or if I have an incorrect copy of City of Dragons where a chapter on how Selden was captured is told. I was like, “When the hell did this happen?!” I think his experience as a captive will be a huge turning point in his development. I wonder if it will make him a little evil or if it will lead him to deeply influence the people Chalced. Emily thinks he’ll probably team up with the Duke of Chalced’s daughter, who’s planning to overthrow the Duke. I like that prediction. I hope it happens…if she’s not totally evil too. I already like her for undermining her father and trying to spark rebellion in the women of Chalced.
And guess whose perspective took me by surprise? Hest! We get to read from this asshole’s POV. I think I could have done without it. Sure, I see the benefit of reading from his POV because he gives us details on developments in Bingtown and possible changes to the Rain Wilds due to increasing trade opportunities and infiltration from Chalced, but ugh! I hate the man. I hope he topples into the Rain Wild river and burns to death. Grr!!!
Overall: ★★★★☆ ½
Another good read. The character and plot developments in this one are totally worth the read.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
One more thing I forgot to mention (and I don’t feel like trying to work it in up top). The story touches on changes to the Rain Wild society as the Tattooed outnumber the Rain Wild people. Because of this, the story also touches on discrimination. Discrimination toward the Tattooed as they are not fully welcomed into Rain Wild society, which causes complications when people seek to make a livelihood and even influence trade and may even be a contributing factor to the greed driving trade and excavation in the Rain Wilds. I like that Hobb mixes in such issues to flesh out her world building and make it seem more realistic.
Also (yea, I said one thing but here’s another), it seems that Kelsingra may become a haven for those heavily touched by the Rain Wilds. We don’t read from Reyn’s sister’s POV, but she makes a strong case for wanting to leave the Rain Wilds — she now feels like an outsider because of her appearance and isn’t free to feel confident in her skin because of the looks she gets from those unused to seeing individuals touched by the Rain Wilds. It all makes the reader aware that there are several issues brewing in the Rain Wilds and I wonder if, how, and when it will all bubble over.
Anyway, I’m done now.