Dragon Keeper: Volume One of the Rain Wilds Chronicles

  • ISBN13: 9780061561627
  • Condition: NEW
  • Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.


Product Description

Enter the spellbinding world of dragons . . . and those who tend them

One of the most gifted fantasy authors writing today, New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb has dazzled readers with brilliantly imaginative, emotionally resonant, and compulsively readable tales set in far-flung realms not unlike our own. In this enthralling new novel, she returns to the territory of her beloved Liveship Traders and Tawny Man trilogies with a story of dragons and humans, return and rebirth, and the search for meaning, belonging, and home.

For years, the Trader cities valiantly battled their enemies, the Chalcedeans. But they could not have staved off invasion without the powerful dragon Tintaglia. In return, the Traders promised to help her serpents migrate up the Rain Wild River after a long exile at sea—to find a safe haven and, Tintaglia hopes, to restore her species. But too much time has passed, and the newly hatched dragons are damaged and weak, and many die. The few who survive cannot use their wings; earthbound, they are powerless to hunt and vulnerable to human predators willing to kill them for the fabled healing powers of dragon flesh.

But Tintaglia has vanished and the Traders are weary of the labor and expense of tending useless dragons. The Trader leadership fears that if it stops providing for the young dragons, the hungry and neglected creatures will rampage—or die along the river’s acidic muddy banks. To avert catastrophe, the dragons decree a move even farther up the treacherous river to Kelsingra, their ancient, mythical homeland whose mysterious location is locked deep within the dragons’ uncertain ancestral memories.

To ensure their safe passage, the Traders recruit a disparate group of young people to care for the damaged creatures and escort them to their new home. Among them is Thymara, an unschooled forest girl of sixteen, and Alise, a wealthy Trader’s wife trapped in a loveless marriage, who attaches herself to the expedition as a dragon expert. The two women share a deep kinship with the dragons: Thymara can instinctively communicate with them, and Alise, captivated by their beauty and majesty, has devoted her life to studying them.

Embarking on an arduous journey that holds no promise of return, the band of humans and dragons must make their way along the toxic and inhospitable Rain Wild River—an extraordinary odyssey that will teach them lessons about themselves and one another, as they experience hardships, betrayals, and joys beyond their wildest dreams.

Recent Comments
  1. E. A Solinas @ 11:31 am

    Usually when there are dragons reintroduced into a fantasy world, they end up being strong, smart, beautiful, and all the rest of it.

    But Robin Hobb examines a different idea: what if something hadn’t gone quite right with the forming dragons? “Dragon Keeper: Volume One of the Rain Wilds” is a slow-moving, richly detailed book that builds on the past events of her last two trilogies, but introduces a rather different dilemma and radically different characters.

    Five years ago, the dragon Tintaglia led a number of exhausted, half starved sea serpents to the Rain Wilds, and oversaw them going into their cocoons. But when they emerged, these new dragons were deformed and stunted in mind and body. Now Tintaglia has gone off with her new mate, leaving the hungry flightless dragons to be fed by the Rain Wilds people who are uncovering Cassarick — and both dragons and humans are rapidly getting sick of this miserable arrangement.

    So the dragons trick the humans into agreeing to take them to the ancient Elderling city of Kelsingra, along with several human keepers. Among those on the journey are the deformed locals including a girl named Thymara, and with an unhappily-married scholar named Alise. But can the strong personalities among the embittered dragons and their equally deformed keepers avoid clashes — and who will make it up the river?

    As dragoncentric books go, “Dragon Keeper” is pretty lacking in glamour. The dragons are stunted, petty, flea-bitten, muddy and fed on spoiled meat, and they live in a rainforesty region full of mud and acid rivers. Fun. The biggest problem is that “Dragon Keeper” goes SLOWLY — it feels like somebody split one massive book in half, and that this is the first part before the plot really gets moving.

    And the main plot is basically made of three big subplots that merge together about halfway through, as Thymara becomes a dragon-keeper and Alise joins the expedition. Fortunately if you can take the slowness, Hobb’s imagined world is an engaging and complex one. Her writing is sumptuously detailed and full of atmosphere, whether it’s the pleasant cultured Bingtown, the rough and deadly rivers, or the damp treetops of the Rain Wilds.

    She also sculpts the plot around three main female characters, all mired in horrible situations. There’s the haughty Sintara, reborn as a stunted wingless dragon who loathes herself and her fellows; Alise, a young woman devoted to studying ancient dragon history and lore, but unhappy in her marriage to a cruel, snotty playboy; and Thymara, who has had claws and scales since she was born and is marked as an outcast among the Rain Wilds folk (and loathed by her own mother).

    And Hobb does an excellent job sketching out the supporting characters — the dragons who seem to blossom under the keepers’ care, the gaggle of outcast kids, and the rough, amiable Captain Letrin. Tats is a likable young boy determined not to let prejudice bog him down, while the whiny Sedric seems at first to be Alise’s love interest (but who is more interested in her husband).

    “Dragon Keeper” is a solid fantasy book that expands Robin Hobbs’ longrunning fantasy world into a messier, cruder part of the world — the only problem is that it’s slow as a sleepy dragon.

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  2. M. Jacobs @ 11:57 am

    Ms. Hobb is a very talented fantasy writer. I would never dispute that, nor would I really disagree with anyone who wanted to give this book a four- or five-star review. The plot is solid, as are the characters, and the setting is well-imagined and beautifully described. It just happens that I found most of the novel intensely exasperating and couldn’t wait for it to be over. So I’m rating it at the same level I gave her Soldier Son trilogy, rather than her vastly superior Assassin/Tawny Man trilogies. (Minor spoilers follow.)

    The best way I can describe what aggravated me so badly about this book is to say that if they turned it into a film, they’d have to show it on the Lifetime channel, as one of its endless parade of “women gamely holding up under the stress of sexism/chauvinism/male violence” movies. One of the reasons I love fantasy is its ability to take me out of this world; this topic does exactly the opposite, and reading almost 500 pages of this stuff was torture. The two protagonists, Alise and Thymara, do of course run into guys who aren’t creeps, but most of the tension and suspense in the book is generated through their conflicts with the various male control freaks in their lives. Alise’s husband is a horrible human being, and her male chaperone on her journey up the river is a duplicitous worm who deserves to be stepped on by a dragon. Thymara, the Rain Wilds girl, has similar problems with a controlling jerk who makes her feel like sexual prey (for good reason, from what I can tell) every time she turns around. Yuck yuck yuck.

    I suppose I’d recommend this book, but in a qualified way. As fantasy, I don’t think it succeeds all that well; as a depiction of women struggling to make their way in a man’s world, it works fine. If that’s really what you’re looking for.

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  3. DF @ 1:11 pm

    I’ve read several other books by Robin Hobbs, and I’ve found her work hit and miss for me. This one has me sort of on the fence. I DID like it. Quite a bit, actually. Her world building is unique, interesting, and fraught with all sorts of problems–acid rivers, ancient volcanic eruptions, humans who are being changed into pseudo reptiles over teh generations in the Rain Wilds. Oh, and there are dragons with fertility problems and their offspring, who were born damaged. (How could you not like dragons, right?) It’s compelling stuff, and her characters are also well drafted and very human in their foibles, fancies and troubles. The author displays her ability to handle complex plots and character growth issues while telling a story well. It’s a solid start to a series.

    My problem with it is perhaps only my personal preference, but I didn’t like any of the characters except for Captain Leftrin and Alise…and she began to grate on me, too, near the end. The portrayal of the characters whose eyes we see through is realistically done, and they are extremely believable, even though I didn’t like them. We have Hest, Alise’s jerk of a husband; the arrogant-to-extreme dragon Sintara; Alise the abused wife finally out from under her husband’s thumb; Captain Leftrin, who isn’t a saint but is a real guy’s guy and nice to boot; Thymara the Rain Wilds girl; and Sedric, the ‘friend’ accompanying Alise who is so shallow, selfish and two-faced I barely could stand reading his viewpoint. But I had a difficult time reading much of them, they were mostly so unlikeable to me, no matter how well written the story was.

    And my final difficulty had to do with the pace. This book is SLOW MOVING. I like me some slow world building, where the world unfolds and is revealed like a flower opening its petals to show even more glorious colors as it does. But…sometimes it can be too slow. The first hundred pages were perhaps great for adding depth and understanding, but I could have done without all of Alise’s backstory and the worm migration that led to the dragon problem. Perhaps the book needed them; the author no doubt had her reasons and I won’t argue her ability to determine what a story needs. But for me, it was just too much and too slow, as nothing much happened.

    The one thing I really actively did not like was the stuff about pigeons. There are some really dumb interludes that consist of messages sent from one pigeon tender to another, and the notes are used to transition between sections when time has passed, and allow the reader to see how much time has passed. I hated those and quit reading them except for a cursory scan to see if something critical were there. (Never found anything that I had to have there.)

    So, I found myself liking the book yet not liking it. I thought it was well written but had to force myself to keep reading it instead of putting it aside. And, now that it’s done, all I can feel is relief and some disappointment…but a lingering sense that I’d like to know how the story finishes.

    It’s mixed feelings for me. And I might read the sequel. On the fence on that.

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  4. Altar Boy @ 2:06 pm

    A continuation of the Liveship Trader’s series of books, this story continues the adventure from a different point of view. A new set of characters become the focus and are dragged into the spotlight.

    All of the characters are introduced with fully developed back stories and you get to experience glimpses of different portions of the different characters lives with the space between chapters sometimes spanning years. This does a delightful job of allowing you to grow in familiarity with what will surely be the main characters as the series progresses. There are cameo appearances by Althea and Paragon from the Liveship Trader’s. The lives of Bingtowners with the new relationships of the Three Ships folks and the Tattooed are explored. All of which allows you to return with comfort to the world that has been created in the previous series.

    The difficulty that is to be had with this book is not in the story, though there are some discontinuities, like another dragon that is freed from the ice because some far off noble wished it which does not explain how the dragon survived or was even found after however many hundreds of years. Instead the problem that drops this book from an outstanding 5 star review is the ending, or rather the glaring demand to buy the next book in the series of an ending. If the remaining books in the series were out this would easily be a 4.5-5-star book.

    The ending of this book makes it apparent that it is part of a series that was cut up into separate books, and cut up at rather poor times in the story. It seems that the series will be all about the characters who have gathered overcoming untold obstacles breaking free of chains of society, making a fantastic journey defeating impossible odds and creating a new society, and arrive to uncover and create world changing unknowns both in society and actual knowledge. However, instead of cutting the book off at the beginning of the journey after the characters have already succeeded at breaking free from societal constraints and have started to enjoy their new companions and are looking forward to the coming journey, what could have been a natural pause, Robin Hobb has deemed it necessary to continue an additional 150 pages. Pages that are full of action and do nothing other than speed up the pace of an otherwise slow book, creating new relationships and new problems. All of these are welcome events as these extra pages will pull you into the story and get things moving with the real adventure coming into focus. The only problem is that the adventure builds and just as it seems that everything will come to a successful partial conclusion the book ends. It is like if someone who starts telling you about the shootout at the OK corral tells you about everyone involved how they got there and then says `he drew his gun and. The end.` and says no more.

    This is an excellent start of a series, but unless you love to live in suspense for a year or more the advice is to wait on getting this book until the next in the series is out, or the entire series has been published. That way you are guaranteed to have a complete story in your hands. This book has a rough ending if you are not expecting it.

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  5. Miz Ellen @ 3:59 pm

    DRAGON KEEPER is the first book of a new trilogy by Robin Hobbs, a fantasy writer known for the richness of her creations. Hobbs has launched an unlikely and diverse set of characters on a fantasy quest up an uncharted jungle river in search of the legendary city of Kelsingra, where dragons and humans once dwelt in peace and untold wealth.

    There is the queen dragon Sintara, who we meet as first as a sea serpent arriving late and out of season with a tangle of other serpents to cocoon on the bank of the river. They are the last hope for a new generation of dragons; the Rain Wild people have agreed to care for the new dragons when they hatch the following year. But when the cocoons break, the emerging dragons are deformed and unable to fly.

    Thymara is a girl of the Rain Wild. Because of her scales and black claws, the midwife took her at birth and exposed her, but her father came and brought her back in uneasy defiance of the custom. As Thymara grows, she is made brutally aware how much keeping her has cost her parents. When the town council decides that it can no longer afford to feed the defective dragons, Thymara signs up for the expedition to help the dragons move up river in search of Kelsingra. She becomes Sintara’s keeper. She’s uneasy as Tats, a former slave and her old friend from childhood, squares off against Greft, a 20-something Rain Wilder who is even more reptilian in appearance than Thymara.

    Alise Kincarron Finbok is a young woman from a Bingtown Trader family. Studious by nature, she is enraptured by the idea of dragons and collects and deciphers ancient scrolls about them. Her family fortunes have suffered and she isn’t considered attractive so she is surprised when handsome Hest Finbok offers for her hand. She doesn’t know what dark secret he is hiding from her, but she agrees to a marriage of convenience if it will allow her to pursue her dragon studies.

    Captain Leftrin, master of the liveship Tarman, also hides a secret–he wishes he never bargained with that Chalcedean. He’s hoping he never hears from the man again, but is afraid he will. Leftrin falls head over heels in love with Alise the moment she first sets foot on his ship.

    Sedric, Hest’s secretary and Alise’s childhood friend, finds himself in a difficult position. He’s currently out of favor with Hest and has been sent to chaperon Alise on her trip to see dragons. He has secret designs of his own to try to make his fortune from the creatures.

    The only thing more entangled than the passions and intrigues of the characters is the Rain Wild river itself. When the waters are churned up by a flood, it runs milky white and is so acidic it will melt the boots off your feet and then your feet off your bones.

    Setting, plot and characters are all strong. Don’t let the deceptively flat prose of the opening prologue discourage you from reading this one. Start with the first chapter to really understand the richness of Hobb’s created world and the elegance of her prose.

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