As at the close of the Liveship Traders trilogy, the serpents have finally made it to Cassarick, where they are meant to hatch into dragons, but something is wrong. None of the serpents emerge as fully grown dragons, and none of them are capable of taking care of themselves. The dragons grow sick of waiting around, and the city grows sick of feeding them, so they agree to head north and try to find the ancient city of Kelsingra. With them goes Thymara, a girl heavily touched by the Rain Wilds and resented by her mother since birth, as well as other Rain Wilds children chosen to care for the dragons. Meanwhile, Alise, a Bingtown Trader’s wife deeply unhappy with her marriage, makes herself into a scholar of dragons and decides to go speak with them for herself.
Robin Hobb is one of my favorite fantasy authors and her worlds never cease to draw me in. We’re back in a familiar place here and I loved hearing more about it and the people in the Rain Wilds. She also draws fantastic characters. I felt so much for Alise and her struggles with her husband. There are many secrets floating around and she is clearly the most hurt by them. I wanted her to reassert her independence and remember who she was over the course of her journey. Thymara is hurt in different ways; she’s younger but has had to deal with parental and societal rejection throughout her entire life. Her father loves her and saved her from exposure as a baby, but her mother has always resented her for being so heavily touched by the Rain Wilds, unable to think of marriage or a normal life. As she embarks on this journey, she’s forced to confront the fact that her preconceptions about life may be wrong.
And there are the dragons, who have personalities of their own. Readers of previous series will be familiar with Tintaglia, but the stunted dragons are very interesting characters in their own right. They remember what it’s like to be dragons from their ancestral memories, but are incapable of behaving the way they know they should. That conflict is fantastically done.
The problem, however, is that not really all that much happens here. There is a whole lot of building up but not a lot of moving, and I fear fans of other fantasy novels might consider this one boring. Plus, it has no real plot of its own, no arc contained in this book, not even a cliffhanger at the end to mark the close. I can see why the second book is being released only a few months after, instead of the normal year, because to be honest readers would probably forget to buy the next one otherwise. It’s obviously only half a book for all its length and I have to admit that I hope the second volume will be a little more exciting. I’d suggest waiting and reading both of them together.
Robin Hobb is still an amazing author, though, and her works draw me in like almost nothing else. I’m very much looking forward to the next book in this duology. Fans of the series will love Dragon Keeper, but I think newcomers would be better starting off with her Six Duchies books.
I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the Amazon Vine program.