Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

The dragons who emerged from their cocoons along the Rain Wilds River were not exactly the fearsome creatures of legend hoped for by many, so a ragtag group of outcasts and misfits are hired to escort them upriver, ostensibly to find a legendary dragon city–if any of them survive.

It was SO much fun to return to the world of the Liveship Traders series, which was my favorite of Robin Hobb’s three Six Duchies trilogies. I’m aching to reread all of them again, to relive the adventure and romance and magic of what I think are the best-written epic fantasy books of all time.

Dragon Keeper is the first half of one book; the second, Dragon Haven, will be out in May. At the close of the Liveship Traders books, the last remaining dragon and some sympathetic folk aided a group of sea serpents to the hatching grounds to go into hibernation and become dragons. Now, those cocoons have opened, but only a few dragons have survived, and those who have are deformed, weak and unable to fly.

Meanwhile, a Bingtown spinster from a prominent family receives a most unromantic proposal of marriage. Alise will be given all the money and freedom she needs to pursue her scholarly study of dragons, the only price being a loveless marriage with a man who ignores her to pursue his own private interests. She longs to see the dragon hatchlings, having not heard the news that they are malformed, but her controlling husband is loath to allow her to travel.

The other main POV character is Thymara, a young Rain Wilds girl who lives near the hatching grounds and saw them emerge. Like many Rain Wilds babies, she was born too deformed to be allowed to live, but her father would not let her be exposed, so she has grown up an outcast, not allowed to marry and not expected to survive to adulthood. Working with the dragons represents a freedom she never expected to know, but the work proves to be more challenging and less rewarding than she hoped it would be.

The humans are no longer willing to tolerate the deformed dragons and their rapacious appetites, but fearful of angering the majestic queen of dragons, Tintaglia, they decide to help the dragons move upriver, where the dragons remember a grand city where their ancestors lived side by side with the Elderlings who tended and worshiped them. No one expects the dragons or their keepers to survive the trip.

I had toyed with the idea of waiting until May to read both books, but I just couldn’t hold out that long. And now May can’t come fast enough! Dragon Keeper is a splendid return to form for Hobb and a book I really, really enjoyed reading.

18 thoughts on “Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb”

  1. Hi Superfast!

    I’ve never read anything by Robin Dobbs before, but you’ve sold me on this one. It sounds fabulous… I love the idea of outcasts and misfits escorting deformed dragons…

    I literally jumped from here to my library’s website. But I’m wondering – is this part of a longer series? Do I need to read something else of hers first or can I start with this one?

  2. Well, it’s a continuation of a story begun in the trilogy that starts with Ship of Magic, which is itself a continuation of a story that begins in a book called Assassin’s Apprentice. There are some spoilers in this one but I think even if you read it first you would still enjoy the trilogy. It’s just better to read the trilogy first, if that makes sense.

  3. Sheesh, Superfast. It’s all your fault I’m not getting any work done today. I checked Ship of Magic out of the library and I can’t put it down! I love the masterful intertwining of the characters’ stories. That and her writing is simply delicious.

    You’ve created a new Robin Hobb fan.

  4. I adore Robin Hobb, but was not a fan of the liveship series, and this was the general consensus in my friendship circle. Characters were more bland and cliche, and the book was less gripping and not terribly memorable. If I had read those first I wouldn’t understand the genius of Robin Hobb.

    I would HIGHLY recommend the Farseer trilogy (with Assasin’s apprentice first), and then the Tawny man trilogy (which continues the Farseer trilogy). Absolutely brilliant work, complex characters, emotion, intrigue, steadily moving plot. My favorite double series and books of all time 🙂

  5. RH fan – well, so far Ship of Magic is the only Robin Hobb book I’ve read and I loved, loved, loved it. I thought it was brilliant, adventurous (a bit graphic). Loved the heroes and villains alike.
    I just got Mad Ship from the library yesterday. Perhaps I’ll go back and read the Farseer next.

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