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.