The Rain Wild Chronicles, by Robin Hobb
This is one of those reviews I feel is pretty redundant: it’s Robin Hobb. I’m a Robin Hobb fanboy. Chances are, if I know you I’ve already been frothing at the mouth in front of you over it. And if you’re reading this, you probably know me. Regardless, posting a review is half the fun in finishing a book for me so I’m doing it anyway. I will do my best to keep this spoiler free.
Upon the release of The Dragon Keeper, a little over five years had passed since last we visited the Elderlings saga in Fool’s Fate. Yes, five years. I had to go back and triple check those numbers. And it’s been even longer since we visited Bingtown and the Rain Wilds specifically, so this is a welcome return for some of us.
When reading Keeper, it’s important to remember that these two volumes were written as one stand-alone novel. I read a lot of negative reviews in various places complaining of a lack of climax in the first volume, no resolution and in general a lot of getting started without really going anywhere. The main reason Hobb tends to write in trilogies is because she sprawls. I think she is incapable of writing a standalone novel. Combined, The Rain Wild Chronicles amounts to 1,136 hardcover pages, which is quite a bit more than most publishers are comfortable with any more. So it was split in two volumes, and sadly 99% of the action happens the moment the second volume begins. This is something I fault the publisher for more than the author, and I think the least they could have done was release the two volumes closer together. Personally, I waited until both volumes were available to really get rolling and went from one directly into the other. I understand the disappointment readers may have felt having only the beginning without any middle or end a year ago, but I urge such people to pick up Dragon Haven because it’s worth it.
We do see some old friends from The Liveship Traders again, though this is not their story and as such they serve only a minor role. As usual, Hobb’s characters and their personal plights take center stage, but in the end their world as a whole is changed by their journey. It’s a very worthy addition to the saga, and I’m excited to see what direction the series goes from here.
It’s not without it’s faults – I’m beginning to wonder what is going on with Hobb’s editing staff. There is a typo in the very first sentence of Keeper, and a few more pop up along the way. Such things have plagued her books for some time now, since her Soldier Son books, if I recall correctly. I don’t recall ever encountering this many typos with any other author, and it’s a bit jarring when you run into it considering her typically graceful flow of writing.
And as much as I love the characters, their complete ignorance does get frustrating. Everyone seems to know what’s going on except the one character it would matter most to, and even when someone sits them down directly and tries explaining to them what’s going on they still fail to grasp it. It’s Fitzism at it’s highest, and it’s annoying. Denial and having a blind eye is understandable to a certain point, but I can only go so long before wanting to throttle people.
But these are minor complaints. I enjoyed the books as a whole, and I highly recommend them to fans of the series.