Cover illustration: Jackie Morris
BOOK TWO OF THE RAIN WILD CHRONICLES
ISBN: 978 - 0 - 00 - 733581 - 7
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publishing Date: 4 March 2010
On the cover:
Return to the Rain wilds.
The dragon keepers and the fledgling dragons are forging a passage up the treacherous Rain Wild River. They are in search of the mythical Elderling city of Kelsingra, and are accompanied by the liveship Tarman, its captain, Leftrin, and a group of hunters who must search the forests for game with which to keep the ragons fed. With them are Alise, who has escaped her cold marriage to the cruel libertine Hest Finbok in order to continue her study of dragons, and Hest's amanuensis, Bingtown dandy, Sedric.
Rivalries and romances are already threatening to disrupt the band of explorers: but external forces may prove to be even more dangerous. Chalcedean merchants are keen to lay their hands on dragon blood and organs to turn them to medicine and profit. Their traitor has infiltrated the expedition and will stop at nothing to obtain the coveted body parts. And then there are the Rain Wilds themselves: mysterious, unstable and ever perilous, its mighty river running with acid, its jungle impenetrable and its waterways uncharted.
Will the expedition reach their destination unscathed? Does the city of Kelsingra even exist? Only one thing is certain: the journey will leave none of the dragons nor their human companions unchanged by the experience.
Unsurprisingly this book follows directly on from the events of "The Dragon Keeper". It does start off with a info-dump prologue that at first glance looks like a unnecessary read if you come directly from the previous book. But the prologue not only recaps the events of book one, Hobb has hidden some interesting new info in it, so it is an essential read.
This book takes place wholly away from the civilization of the Rain Wilds, and follows the journey of the dragons and their keepers further into the wilds. Not only the physical wilds of the Rain Wild River, but also the wild landscape of the human psyche.
Parts of the book looks at the dynamics of a group of individuals who are cut off from civilization. Some of what happens reminded me of "Lord of the Flies", and i would not be surprised if Hobb has drawn some of her inspiration from William Golding's novel.
There is a bit more action here than in "The Dragon Keeper", and the overall pace of events is stepped up a bit. There are still passages that are largely devoted to character building, and that is certainly still a large part of the story, but there is quite a few events happening in the physical world too.
It quickly becomes clear that there actually was a bit more happening in book one than was told to the reader. This was mostly very natural, as it was hidden from the point of view characters at the time. One development did make me feel a bit cheated as I felt the character should have noticed earlier, or at the very least had a feeling of something going on.
One thing that there is certainly more of here than in book one is romance. Not that it is in any way turned into a "Romantic Fantasy", but there is a bit of "action" in the book. This comes naturally with the story, and at least one of the developing relationships has been telegraphed since early in the previous book.
Robin Hobb also manages to sneak in some surprises on the romance front, and one of them comes as such a surprise that I doubt anyone will catch on before the reveal.
What was the most interesting part of the book for me was finding out about the relationship between humans, dragons and elderlings. This is revealed in more detail here than in any of Hobbs previous works. This relationship between three races is something that has been part of Robin Hobb's fantasy world since "The Farseer Trilogy" and to see what looks like most of the mysteries revealed is very satisfying.
Having mentioned earlier in this review that there is more action here than in "The Dragon Keeper", I feel the need to say that it is by no means an action oriented adventure. But as with the previous volume in "The Rain Wild Chronicles" I felt that the slow pace fitted the story.
I've read several reports that these two books were first intended as one, and I have no trouble believing that. It might be possible to read this book as a standalone, but I would definitely recommend you read these to books as a split volume and begin with the first one.
The ending of this book, and as far as I know "The Rain Wild Chronicles", was a bit of a letdown. Not because it was a badly written ending, or that it didn't finish the story. It did however leave me with a lack of closure that almost screams for a follow up. I hope it comes in the form of another trilogy from Robin Hobb, and that she's working on it now, because I want to read it as soon as possible.
LINKS: My review of "The Dragon Keeper" Robin Hobb Harper Voyager