Book Review: Dragon Haven

Book Review: Dragon Keeper (Book One of the Rain Wild Chronicles) by: Robin Hobb.

I give this book three out of five stars.

A vividly real read from start to finish. I adore the authors endearing and flawed characters. I would like to have given this book four stars, but the ending or lack of one killed my affection for all of the other very good things found in this book.

What I liked:

1) How real the characters are. They are presented with flaws, or make mistakes, and have quirks. The characters are varied, Hobb introduces you to a fairly large cast, but she has made it easy to like and get to know each one.

2) Hobb has a gift for creating a new and vividly real world. You get to see life in a city nestled high in the canopy of the rain forest. The life of another city nestled on dry land, and then the life in cities excavating ancient cities below them. We see the brilliant idea of a “living ship” and witness life aboard a river barge. She takes you into a dragon’s point of view. You feel the exhaustion from a serpent migration, the taste of mud as she built an encasement, and then the exhausting hunger as she emerged to a new life as a dragon. There are social rules, history, and culture that effect and add contrast to this story.

3) I like how the author kept me guessing about which of the keepers Thymara might eventually have a romantic connection to. How she see’s each of her three prospects differently. Feeling jealousy over one, comfort from another, and strange desire from one she doesn’t really like. It was a wonderful way to mix both plot and characterization into the unfolding action of the book.

What I did not like:

1) No more back-stories Ms. Hobb. Cease and desist from writing anymore sad childhood memories, and recollections from the past. These would have had more impact if used sparingly. The dragons memories were needed to provide understanding of this world. Alise’s established her character, and Leftrin’s successfully added drama by way of hidden secrets. However the rest could have been edited out. Sedric’s was especially annoying, where it was placed in the book made the story drag, read as redundant, and provided little to no new information. I just don’t know why the author thought it was needed because I felt she did well establishing Sedric and Hest in a devoted relationship. I was hoping for more drama when their big secret was revealed. While these memories told us for certain our suspicions were correct, they told us nothing more we did not already know. I would rather have the depth of the Hest/Sedric relationship confirmed in a scene between Sedric and Alise. I also think every scene from Hest’s point of view could have been eliminated. He would have been a better bad guy without them, and the drama of Alise’s failed marriage would have increased.

2) Did I mention redundancy? If I didn’t, or if you the reader are not keeping up, let me mention it again, there’s redundancy in the book. Yes this is a fantasy fiction book and many authors build redundant descriptions into the narrative to teach the audience about this fictional place. However in this book, some of these character and place establishing lead in’s went from annoying to insulting. I wondered about it after awhile. Were these remnants of an old outline that never got cleaned up in the editing process? Did some suggest Hobb restate these basic facts over and over again? Does she really think her target market has this low of an IQ? I would read these and hear myself grumbling, “No kidding, we’re 300 pages in.”

3) The ending was a disappointment. Not only was the main plot not resolved, but none of sub plots were either. The ending of this book is not an ending. This ending was not even something I would classify as a cliffhanger. To me the book just stops mid story, as if the author was only allocated so many words by her publisher, or this was the best place to stop according to her editor. This did not throw me too much. I have the next two books in my pile of “to-read’s” at home. However I caution anyone who needs resolution from their books, to have the next book on hand.