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The Dragon Keeper: The Rain Wild Chronicles, Book 1
Robin Hobb
Harper Voyager, 553 pages

Robin Hobb
Robin Hobb, aka Megan Lindholm, was born in California in 1952. At the age of about 9 she moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she graduated from high school. Later, after a brief stint at the University of Denver where she majored in Mass Communications, she married and moved back up to Alaska, where she started writing under her maiden name. She started publishing her short stories about twenty years ago in small magazines. Shortlisted for the 1989 Nebula Awards in the categories of novella ("A Touch of Lavender" -- also a 1990 Hugo Award nominee) and novelette ("Silver Lady and the Fortyish Man"), she was also nominated for the Nebula for her short story "Cut." She lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Robin Hobb Website
ISFDB Bibliography: Robin Hobb
ISFDB Bibliography: Megan Lindholm
SF Site Review: Renegade's Magic
SF Site Review: Shaman's Crossing
SF Site Review: The Golden Fool
SF Site Review: Fool's Errand
SF Site Review: Mad Ship
SF Site Review: Ship of Magic
SF Site Review: The Farseer Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Farseer: Assassin's Quest
SF Site Review: The Farseer: Royal Assassin

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

The Dragon Keeper Attention fans, the wait is over. She has officially returned to the Rain Wilds. If you are familiar with Robin Hobb's The Liveship Traders trilogy, you'll probably be as excited as I was to read her latest novel, The Dragon Keeper. The Liveship Traders is among my all time favorite fantasy trilogies and I was thrilled to find out she would be continuing this storyline. After reading The Dragon Keeper, readers will not be disappointed and will forgive Hobb for her nine-year absence.

Hobb picks the story up where it left off in Ship of Destiny, but shifts the action completely over to the Rain Wilds. Tintaglia has successfully led the tangle of serpents up the Rain Wild River to hatch into dragons, but the tangle is in bad shape when they begin to cocoon. The dragons that emerge are nothing like the majestic creatures that once roamed the skies. These dragons are incapable of flight, feeding and other essential daily activities. The task of feeding and housing the dragons then falls on the people of the rain wilds in the town of Cassarick. However, soon the burden becomes overwhelming and the people of Cassarick decide (with a little help from the dragons) to move the dragons and aid them in their search for the legendary Elderling city of Kelsingra far up into the unexplored regions of the Rain Wild river. For this endeavor, they recruit "dragon keepers" and so begins the first tale of the Rain Wild Chronicles.

The two protagonists of the story are Thymara and Alise Finbok. Thymara is a child of the Rain Wilds. She was born highly "deformed" by Rain Wild standards and should have been exposed at birth, but was instead saved by her father. Thymara is shunned by most Rain Wilders and longs for acceptance. She becomes infatuated with the dragons after watching them hatch and volunteers, with the other outcasts of Cassarick, to become one of the dragon keepers. The other protagonist, Alise Finbok is the neglected wife of a prominent Bingtown trader and longs for adventure. She has spent most of her life studying dragon and Eldering lore. For Alise, the opportunity to travel to the Rain Wilds in order to study and talk with the dragons in person proves too much.

Throughout The Dragon Keeper, Hobb manages to maintain the high quality of prose that has defined her career. In a blind taste test, it would take readers only a few pages to know the author of any of her books was a woman. Her voice is decidedly female and it is one of her most endearing qualities, but for other more testosterone-infused readers this may be a turn off. In The Dragon Keeper and in most of Hobb's writing, readers won't find many heads lopped off and no one will be bludgeoned to death by a mace (unfortunately). However, what you will find is an author on the top of her game, a pure story teller and a woman who weaves her words with such emotion that I am often moved to tears while reading her literature. Her characters come alive and become people we know and care about, a feat that all authors strive for but few manage to pull off so deftly.

The only real criticism I have with The Dragon Keeper is the way it ended. I had heard that this was originally slated as a stand-alone novel but grew to be two books. If that is the case, it would explain the abrupt ending. Even in books that are part of a series, authors seem scrupulous about where they end each installment. The Dragon Keeper needed to find a more logical stopping point and feels like it should have had a couple more chapters. Instead, we are left with a feeling that the publisher forgot to print them. Hobb and her team are seasoned veterans and the way the book ended leads me to believe, again, that when she envisioned this story it was going to be one book. Nevertheless, The Dragon Keeper is a wonderful first installment in Hobb's much anticipated return to the Rain Wilds and I eagerly await the next installment in this series. It's no wonder that Hobb is one of the marquee names in fantasy literature and one of the finest, most imaginative authors writing today.

Copyright © 2009 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best."

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