And here we are at last: The final installment of the Rain Wilds Chronicles in which we see dragons return to Robin Hobb’s fantastic world. It’s been an exciting experience reading this book and learning about how dragons function in this world and who exactly the Elderlings are.
Blood of Dragons wraps up the Rain Wild Chronicles while leaving some plot threads untouched, hinting at more to come in other books. My buddy-reader for Hobb’s books, Emily at Embuhlee liest, and I plan to jump into the next stack of books – Fitz and the Fool trilogy – soon. But for now, here are my thoughts on the last installment of the Rain Wilds Chronicles.
Rain Wild Chronicles, book 4
Realm of the Elderlings, book 13
The dragons’ survival hangs in the balance in the thrilling final volume in the acclaimed River Wilds Chronicles fantasy series.
The dragons and their dedicated band of keepers have at last found the lost city of Kelsingra. The magical creatures have learned to use their wings and are growing into their regal inheritance. Their humans, too, are changing. As the mystical bonds with their dragons deepen, Thymara, Tats, Rapskal, and even Sedric, the unlikeliest of keepers, have begun transforming into beautiful Elderlings raked with exquisite features that complement and reflect the dragons they serve.
But while the humans have scoured the empty streets and enormous buildings of Kelsingra, they cannot find the mythical silver wells the dragons need to stay health and survive. With enemies encroaching, the keepers must risk “memory walking”- immersing themselves in the dangerously addictive memories of long-deceased Elderlings – to uncover clues necessary to their survival.
And time is of the essence, for the legendary Tintaglia, long feared dead, has returned, wounded in a battle with humans hunting dragon blood and scales. She is weakening and only the hidden silver can revive her. If Tintaglia dies, so, too, will the ancient memories she carries – a devastating loss that will ensure the dragons’ extinction. (Goodreads)
So far I’ve enjoyed each of the four fantasy series I’ve read by Robin Hobb. Her stories are character-driven and can be slow moving sometimes, but each book is a gripping, exciting adventure that leaves me wanting more by its end. It’s the same with the Rain Wild Chronicles. By the end of Blood of Dragons, I wanted to immediately start on the first book of the Fitz and the Fool trilogy. What kept me from doing so, however, is that my copy of the book hadn’t arrived yet. It was somewhere between here and the U.K. and I was left hoping it will at least arrive before summer because Book Depository can be slow with deliveries.
Blood of Dragons is a decent finale to such an expansive series. There are only four books in the Rain Wild Chronicles but much happens to the characters. We watch as many characters mature throughout the books. The majority of individuals who embarked on the quest to Kelsingra were teenagers and by the end of the books we see them start thinking of themselves as men and women and taking on more adult considerations and responsibilities. Alise, who was already an adult when this series began, grew more confident and self-assured about her intentions and what she wants for her future. Sedric undergoes a similar development though the harshness of the situations he’s thrown into made him realize what was missing in his former life in Bingtown and his relationship with Hest. The quest made him prove himself capable in other ways.
However, it’s the dragons that underwent the most significant development throughout the books. They begin this series weak, ignorant about certain things, malformed, and entirely dependent on their keepers. But by the series’ end, they have grown into the mythical beasts of old that dazzle mere humans with their beauty, size, and intellect and are independent and capable of caring for themselves. No longer are they entirely dependent on a human.
Observing these developments throughout the books was part of the appeal for me, but also finding out how the return of dragons would affect people’s lives. This was touched on as we see people in the Rain Wilds and Bingtown begin to consider how they can profit from dragons and the discovery of Kelsingra, a new city to plunder. There’s also the Chalcedeans, who see the dragons as a cure for their ruler, and the few people the dragons selected to form into Elderlings. Dragons and Elderlings have returned!
However, as a book on its own, I found Blood of Dragons a bit weak. As the end of the Rain Wild Chronicles, this book gives us the answers needed to wrap up the main conflicts of this series, but some things were hinted at in the previous books and new things were introduced in this one that did not receive an answer/explanation by the end of Blood of Dragons. It’s obvious that the story will continue in another series, but new things introduced made the end of this book feel unsatisfying as a book on its own.
(Spoilers for this book below)
I had an issue with three things in this book. The first is how Hest exits the story. Hest is a horrible person and I did not like him. I was surprised when the perspective switched to his in City of Dragons and that so much time was spent on his perspective in Blood of Dragons. In Blood of Dragons, I began to pity him because of the situation he was unwillingly thrust into and especially when he grieved the death of his friend and lover, Redding, and realized that treats Redding and Sedric horribly. I thought these moments of reflection would cause him to change and that seemed to happen for a while. I no longer wished him to die a slow and painful death by drowning in the Rain Wild River when it’s extremely acidic. I instead wanted to see how this character would change for the better. But that didn’t happen and I was surprised when Hest quickly and easily reverted to his selfish ways upon arriving in Kelsingra and catching Alise and Sedric’s attentions.
I felt duped and misled by Hest and Robin Hobb. I really expected Hest to change, but I guess the profits he estimated to gain from Kelsingra and the desperateness of his circumstance pushed him to revert fully to his selfish ways. I disliked him even more because of how he acted in Kelsingra and especially toward Davvie, but his end — getting eaten by Kalo — didn’t have the effect on me I thought it would. It was underwhelming.
And that’s how I see Hest: He is an underwhelming antagonist. His character worked well in the first and second books as a motivator for Alise and Sedric to change their lives, whether to escape his influence or to get closer to him. But once those two became independent of Hest, Hest was easily and swiftly removed from the story. That’s why I was disappointed. I felt misled because of the time spent reading from Hest’s perspective. I started to think it was pointless, but his POV provided us with insight about dealings in Bingtown, the Rain Wilds, and Chalced that other characters we’re already familiar with wouldn’t know. That’s the only reason why we were given Hest’s POV I think.
I also didn’t like how the Duke of Chalced exited the story; or rather, how the battle between the dragons and Chalced was relayed. I hope we get another recount of it, as if we are there, in one of the books in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy. There was a lot of build up to the war and to us readers hating the Duke of Chalced, but the moments at which those things happened were underwhelming. We don’t see what happened to the Duke so I wonder if he’s truly dead, and we get a second-hand account of the battle, just a summary of it. That was frustrating.
The third thing I took issue with is how Rapskal changed throughout the book, but that’s because, like Thymara, I miss the sweet Rapskal from the beginning who was unpredictable, optimistic, odd, and kind. I do like that he has become a warrior (or is becoming one) but I do not like that he had to take on another persona to do so.
Other things that annoyed me: Thymara, of course (but only if she’s thinking about Tatts, Rapskal, or romantic relationships, which all take up about 90% of her POV); finding the Silver, which I thought would have had a greater impact on the dragons (I thought Heeby would talk and the dragons would become super intelligent or something; THAT too was underwhelming); how Jerd is presented (she reminds me of Starling and I don’t like that she must be perpetually jealous of Thymara or that Rapskal had to deny her advances so harshly; damn dude!).
These dislikes are minor in comparison to all the book covers, how well it wraps up the story, and how much Emily and I enjoyed reading it.
Things I liked: Hest realizing he’s horrible and grieving Redding (which I thought would be a turning point 😦 ); development in Alise and Leftrin’s relationship (one of my fav relationships in the Realm of the Elderlings series); Alise and Sedric uniting against Hest (LOVED that because Hest didn’t expect it); Kalo saving Tintaglia (it’s as tender as a dragon will get); the Duke of Chalced drinking Selden’s blood (it’s gory and disturbing but I liked it because it made me think of vampires and how unique the Elderlings are); Kalo and Icefyre bicker about Tintaglia and her eggs; Thymara flies; Tarman and Paragon discuss their captains’ love life (telepathically I guess).
Worth the read.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
If you are a fantasy fan who loves dragons, then I highly recommend these books to you. I think one can hop into Hobb’s books with this series. Just make sure to start with the first book, Dragon Keeper.