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.
Rain Wild Chronicles, book 2
Realm of the Elderlings, book 11
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.