“Dragon Haven” by Robin Hobb

It’s been over a month since I completed this book, so writing a reflection on it now is difficult and will not be as detailed as I want it to be. The short of it, though, is that Emily of Embuhlee liest and I enjoyed this installment of the Rain Wild Chronicles. We were both hooked and upon completing it, we were both eager to jump into the next novel.

Genre:

Fantasy

Series:

Rain Wild Chronicles, book 2

Realm of the Elderlings, book 11

Pubbed:

2010

Goodreads summary:

Return to the world of the Liveships Traders and journey along the Rain Wild River in the second instalment of high adventure from the author of the internationally acclaimed Farseer trilogy.

The dragon keepers and the fledgling dragons are forging a passage up the treacherous Rain Wild River. They are in search of the mythical Elderling city of Kelsingra, and are accompanied by the liveship Tarman, its captain, Leftrin, and a group of hunters who must search the forests for game with which to keep the dragons fed. With them are Alise, who has escaped her cold marriage to the cruel libertine Hest Finbok in order to continue her study of dragons, and Hest’s amanuensis, Bingtown dandy, Sedric.

Rivalries and romances are already threatening to disrupt the band of explorers: but external forces may prove to be even more dangerous. Chalcedean merchants are keen to lay hands on dragon blood and organs to turn them to medicines and profit. Their traitor has infiltrated the expedition and will stop at nothing to obtain the coveted body parts. And then there are the Rain Wilds themselves: mysterious, unstable and ever perilous, its mighty river running with acid, its jungle impenetrable and its waterways uncharted.

Will the expedition reach their destination unscathed? Does the city of Kelsingra even exist? Only one thing is certain: the journey will leave none of the dragons nor their human companions unchanged by the experience. (Goodreads)

My thoughts: (some spoilers)

This installment picks up right where the first book ended. We’re still in the Rain Wilds, the expedition to Kelsingra is still making its way up the river, some of the dragons are still struggling to survive, and the young characters are still undergoing major character development that began, for most, in the first book and takes off in this one.

While the first novel, Dragon Keeper, felt like setup for the story to come, Dragon Haven feels like the beginning of the story. This is where it takes off. Characters spark interest in the reader and they greatly change by the end of this book. This is a road trip story — except it takes place in a rainforest on a barge floating up a toxic river — and so it is about the journey and how the difficulties faced on the journey changes and shapes the characters. It’s plot-driven, and the author’s hand is a bit obvious in some parts when the pace has slowed some and the author causes an obstacle — say, a flood — to sweep through to shake things up and cause the characters to show who or how they really are, force some growth in them, or show how much they’ve developed.

I didn’t mind that. Actually, the flood is one of my favorite parts of the story. I love that it forces some characters to set aside their pride and show that they do care for others (Sintara). I love that it places fear in some and causes others to gain confidence and discover something new about themselves (Sedric). The flood caused the characters to bring emotions they buried to the fore, and I love it for that.

However, it was also a wee bit of an annoyance, but only with Sintara and Thymara’s relationship. I thought, well, hoped, the flood would cause them to set aside pride and grow closer together, or at least for them to decide they aren’t well suited for each other; but that didn’t happen. Actually, that flood scene and the recovery from it convinced me how well suited Sintara and Thymara are for each other. I realized that before but accepted it when the flood came. But the stubbornness in both of them sometimes frustrates me.

I don’t want to spend this whole review speaking of just the characters so here are some quick thoughts about them:

  • Sedric: I like the development he receives following the flood scene and that we get more of his backstory, but I still don’t like the dude, especially since he seems not to have shown much consideration for how his relationship with Hest affects Alise (back when he was planning to run away withe Hest). It’s as if he never thinks of that, which is weird because he thinks of Alise as a great friend.
  • Hest: I HATE the dude. He is written so that we would hate him and so far in Hobb’s stories, the characters written that way always die by the end of the trilogy they appear in so PREDICTION: Hest will die by the end of this series.
  • Rapskal and his dragon Heeby: Rapskal is my favorite character so far. He’s so optimistic. His relationship with his dragon Heeby makes me think of a boy and his dog, which a dragon would find highly offensive, but that’s how Rapskal treats his dragon early in this book — like a pet dog.
    • Is Heeby male or female? The edition of the book I read has so many typos, errors, and minor inconsistencies that I couldn’t tell Heeby’s gender.
  • I love what we learn of the Tarman in this book. It’s such a pleasant surprise, and I love how independent the ship is. Regarding him, my favorite part was when he refused to move until Leftrin acquiesced to what Tarman wants.
  • Greft: Another character us readers aren’t intended to like. It was obvious what would become of him, though I didn’t expect it to be so horrid. It was a painful way to go.
  • Erek and Detozi: We follow their story in the letters sent between Bingtown and Trehaug. I love the relationship that develops between them. That was sweet and unexpected.
  • Thymara: A frustrating character to read from. I thought she would be one of my favorites, but her teenage angst and other hangups annoy the shit outta me. I think her body changes as she becomes an Elderling is pretty cool, but I was as angry as she was that Sintara was an ass about explaining it. (I think of Sintara as a very prissy high society gentlewoman.)
  • Alise: She’s still one of my favorites and I love how much she has grown in this installment. I love that she’s slowly relazing that she doesn’t have to be bound to Hest and is free to love a man who not only loves her but respects her too. I think Alise is awesome.

As for the dragons, I like the growth they’ve undergone on this journey up the river. I like that they too have received some character development and that the obstacles faced on this journey have recalled them to their strengths and abilities as dragons and has caused them to devise new ways of approaching certain situations. They’ve realized that they must adapt to survive, and it’s interesting to see how this has affected their development. Dragons are loners and are very independent, but this journey has shown this new breed that they need a community — each other and the humans — to survive. I look forward to seeing what becomes of them later and how their relationship with their keepers will progress in Kelsingra.

Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½

Another good installment in the series. It didn’t blow me away, but it kept my interest in the story and made me curious about what will happen next, especially since I believe Kelsingra is in Buckeep (or at least on the same land as Buckeep…close to the Mountain Kingdom).

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

If you’re this far into the Realm of the Elderlings books, then I recommend Buying this; but if you’re just jumping into the story with the Rain Wild Chronicles, then you should Borrow instead.

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“Home and Away” by Candice Montgomery

This is not the sort of book I usually go for. YA contemporary is not my jam. Usually, if I decide to read a contemporary novel, it would be an adult novel. But I’m glad that Page Street Publishing reached out and sent an advanced copy of Home and Away for me to review. (Thanks y’all!) I was surprised I enjoyed it.

Genre:

YA contemporary

Pubbed:

October 16, 2018

Goodreads summary:

Tasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She’s a senior, she’s got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school’s team.

But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that her answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them—but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

As I said, I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did partly because of its genre and partly because of what the story is about. I immediately assumed it would focus a lot on football, which sort of turned me off, but I’m glad the mention of the mysterious box caught and held me and made me give the story a chance.

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“Dragon Keeper” by Robin Hobb

Me and Emily from Embuhlee liest are back at it again. WE’RE READING ANOTHER ROBIN HOBB BOOK!!!! 😀 😀 And so far it’s great, of course!

Genre:

Fantasy

Series:

Rain Wild Chronicles, book 1

Realm of the Elderlings, book 10

Pubbed:

2009

Quick summary:

The dragon eggs have hatched! Finally the skies will be filled with dragons again…or so the characters hope. Despite the efforts of the dragon Tintaglia and the people of the Rain Wilds and Bingtown, the serpents that cocooned themselves in the Rain Wilds were too weak, too small, and too late to hatch as full grown dragons. Instead, they are deformed, weak, and unable to hunt to feed themselves. Tintaglia abandons them and leaves the responsibility to the people of the Rain Wilds to care for the deformed dragons (so it seems), but the dragons are a nuisance to their human neighbors, so the Rain Wild Council devise a way to get rid of them that would also purge the Rain Wilds of folks considered undesirable.

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“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

It was morning. As always, I was rushing to catch my bus to work but stole some time to look up an audio book to listen to on my way there and while working. Work is boring. Traveling to work on public bus can be aggravating. I needed a distraction.

I pulled up my Overdrive app and scrolled through audio books. I couldn’t find any available for books I’ve already read, which is the best way for me to consume audio books because it’s hard for me to remember or focus on new-to-me reads on audio. Then I said fuck it. Let me just download a random one. I pulled up a list of popular audio books and downloaded the one that snagged my attention first — the black and white cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. I didn’t even know who the dude is, but I knew that a lot of people raved over the book. It could be good, I thought as I popped in my headphones and hopped out the door.

Genre:

Nonfiction — autobiography, music

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“The Book of Hidden Things” by Francesco Dimitri (transl.)

Atmospheric and suspenseful with prose that transports you to Puglia, Italy, The Book of Hidden Things is one of the most well written books I read this year. I was drawn to it because of this interview with the author. Both it and the book’s title made me wonder what exactly the story is about.

Genre:

Fantasy, Literary

Pubbed:

June 2018

Quick summary:

Francesco Dimitri is an Italian author who has written several books in his native language and has now done a superb job of writing a fantasy novel in a foreign tongue — English. The Book of Hidden Things is his debut English novel that he translated himself. It’s about four friends — Fabio, Tony, Mauro, and Art — who made a pact at the end of high school to return to the same spot in their home town in Puglia, Italy, every year on the same date. But this time, Art, who instigated the pact, does not show up.

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“The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells

I decided to revisit The Invisible Man a few weeks ago when I saw it on a feature shelf at my library.

I’d first read it when I was in high school and was so hooked on the story back then that I completed the book in a day. I wanted to know if my experience with the story would be the same or if the intervening years had dried the story for me and made it a bore, so I gave it another read.

Genre:

Sci-fi; Classic

Pubbed:

1897

Goodreads summary:

This masterpiece of science fiction is the fascinating story of Griffin, a scientist who creates a serum to render himself invisible, and his descent into madness that follows. (Goodreads)

My thoughts: (spoilers)

In short, I enjoyed the story. Again I was hooked just as I was when I first read it. But unlike my high school years, I now have responsibilities that claim my time, so it took a few days to complete the story, which is quite short at under 200 pages.

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Illustrated Books: “Sky High” and “Spot, the Cat”

I’m surprised at myself that I haven’t read much illustrated books or comics so far this year. I wonder what’s going on with me. These two books bring me to a total of 4 illustrated children’s books read so far. Hopefully I’ll read a few more before the year is done.

Both of the books I’ll discuss in this post where cover buys. I love looking at illustrations of architecture and both books have illustrations of buildings on their covers. Naturally, I picked them up, ran my hands over the cover, and convinced myself to purchase them. I bought them at two different independent bookstores and I’m glad to now know that both were good purchases.


Sky High by Germano Zullo, illus. by Albertine

Genre:

Children’s Humor

Pubbed:

2012

Goodreads summary:

In this charming illustrated tale, two competing neighbors begin embellishing their mansions, only to find themselves caught up in a race to build the tallest, most decadent skyscraper featuring solid gold doors, diamond-encrusted pillars, grand ballrooms, expensive paintings, live tigers, and indoor swimming pools—with consequences inevitable, and not. Kids will love spotting the funny details hidden in this witty take on an age-old moral, while their parents—particularly any who’ve ever undertaken a remodel—will chuckle with recognition. (Goodreads)

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