Nikki's Reviews > The Dragon Keeper

The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
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's review
May 29, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, dragons
Read from May 29 to 30, 2010

The Dragon Keeper is a return to the Realm of the Elderlings 'verse. I love the first trilogy of books in it dearly, struggled through the second, and enjoyed the return to form in the third. I've detailed what I found difficult about the Liveships trilogy in my review of those, here. Some of those problems are repeated here: I find Hobb's writing stronger, in general, in the first person, because of her tendency to go off on long, long pages of exposition. At least when it's in the voice of a character, like Fitz, it becomes a part of the character. She does get into her characters' heads, even in third person, but there's so many of them. As with Liveships, it's hard to judge who are the real protagonists, because she hops between the minds of all of the different points of view. It does enrich the world of the story, but at the same time, it's awkward seeing characters from so many different points of views. What Fitz (and therefore the reader) didn't know was as important as what he did, if not more, in Farseers; here, I think the reader is told a bit too much.

The characters are somewhat more likeable than the Liveships characters. As with that, some of the non-POV characters (Ronica in Liveships, for example; Tats in this book) seem a bit more sympathetic, but perhaps that's because Hobb doesn't write from their POV. If she did, then perhaps we'd see the unpleasant side of them, too. It's hard to sympathise, though, especially with Sedric. I can't even really believe in his supposedly loving and intense relationship with Hest, because Hest just reminds me of Kyle in Liveships, and is pretty awful even without that. Alise is probably the character I'm most attached to, and I'm going to ache a lot for her if she doesn't get the love she deserves. I'd be more contemptuous of the more Mills & Boon ish parts of her relationship with the barge captain if I didn't want her to be happy.

It feels like nothing very much has happened, overall, for the dragons. This book was all set-up, and I dread to think how long the journey might drag on. I think the ambivalence to the dragons -- their beauty on the one hand, their arrogance on the other -- is interesting to read about, especially because a lot of fantasy writers assume that any other intelligent races would be more like us than not. It's interesting to have them be different, to think in a different way; it's both alluring and frustrating, because it's hard to relate to. For me, anyway, soft-hearted little human as I am.

Reserving final judgement until I've read the other book, of course, but I think this bodes well. It doesn't match Farseers for me, but it's way better than the Soldier Son trilogy, which I just found inpenetrable and discomforting. And it's better than Liveships, even if it shares some flaws with it. I finished this book in a single day, despite fearing it would take me ages: that's usually a good sign.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Gill (new)

Gill If you like the idea of an alien race with alien thought processes and emotions have you tried Mary Gentle's Golden Witchbreed trilogy? If not, you should!

message 2: by Suna (new)

Suna This is very interesting; I am about to read this as well and always have had issues with the way Hobb writes certain characters. Her books are, for all their flaws, oddly compelling though!
I am trying not to have too many presuppositions about the book, especially your remark about not much happening with the dragons worries me a bit. It's pretty much why I'm reading them, I always wanted more Elderlinngs and Dragons, even in the Farseer books.

Nikki M and G, I'm reading one of Mary Gentle's books soon; if I like her writing, I'll try it!

Suna, there is a significant amount of the book spent with them/their keepers, but no major events happen. They decide to go on a journey and begin the first leg -- that's about it. There is time spent both with characters observing/caring for them, and in the heads of the dragons themselves. Most of the POV characters are together and on the journey to the dragons' destination, now, so I think there'll be more dragon-ish stuff.

message 4: by Suna (new)

Suna Oh, that does make a difference, thank you for clarifying! I do love her world-building.

Nikki There's some lovely bits with the dragons in the second book! (I posted a review of that, too, if you'd like more detail.)

message 6: by Suna (last edited Jun 12, 2010 04:02AM) (new)

Suna I probably won't read you review of the second book until I've read it, but I look forward to see what happens next, having finished the first.

Although I really must admit I had serious issues with the way the Hest/Sedric plot-line just dragged on and on and on, mimble wimble.... Infuriating!
And Sedric is such a petulant person.

But then, I suppose it is quite realistic, as far as the frustrations that come with thwarted relationships are concerned.
But goodness they're so unlikeable.

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