This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

20 March, 2012

REVIEW: CITY OF DRAGONS

 Cover art: Jackie Morris

CITY OF DRAGONS
BOOK THREE OF THE RAIN WILD CHRONICLES
BY
ROBIN HOBB

ISBN: 978-0-00-727380-5
Pages: 425
Publisher: HarperVoyager UK
Published: 23 April 2012 (UK) 1 March 2012 (Aus) 7 February 2012 (US)


On the cover:


Kelsingra awaits for those brave enough to enter…

The dragons and their keepers have discovered Kelsingra but so far only Heeby has succeeded in flying over the river to enter the fabled city. The other dragons, with their deformed wings and feeble muscles, are afraid to risk failure and humiliation.

But wondrous things await in Kelsingra, a city built for dragons and their Elderling keepers. Alise, overwhelmed by the treasures she finds there, records her finds for posterity. Once the rest of the world knows about the riches the city contains, nothing will ever be the same again.

Already, rumours of the city’s discovery have floated down the Rain Wild River and reached envious ears in Bingtown and beyond. Adventurers, pirates and fortune hunters are coming in droves to pillage what they can from the city. As is Hest Finbok, Alise’s husband…

Meanwhile, Selden Vestrit finds himself a prisoner of the ailing Duke of Chalced, who believes him to be some sort of dragon-man whose flesh and blood may work miracle cures.

Where is Tintaglia, the great sapphire-blue dragon, when all have such need of her? Has she really abandoned her beloved Selden and the fledgling dragons forever? Or will she too return to seek the wonders of Kelsingra?

   I feel like I have waited forever for this book, I was hoping Hobb would continue the story about Kelsingra when I finished Dragon Haven. (Nothing was announced back then, and the two first books were talked about as a split one-shot.) It has been a longer wait than is usual between books in a series, so I was very curious as to how the story would continue.

   This novel starts where Dragon Haven finishes, nothing has really happened since the end of the last book. It also doesn't change the concept of the two preceding books, which can in a way be summed up as exploration not action.
   Since there is some archaeology (, at least sort of,) involved I think a good way of explaining this volume of the Rain Wild Chronicles is that it is like a documentary about the Ark of the Covenant. So if you are looking for Raiders of the Lost Ark, you will probably be disappointed by the slow pace and lack of action.

   I mentioned the slow pace, for me that was not a problem. It's not slow in a "come on, something has to happen soon" way, but rather a case of the narrative taking its time. There's plenty of time to get to know the characters even better, and see how they have been changed by the events that have happened since the story started in The Dragon Keeper.
   It is however in its place to mention that there is a slight tendency to go to far in the "infodumping" in places, and I'm sure this will not be to everyone's liking. And this novel, and the whole Rain Wilds Chronicles-series, is not for readers who are impatient and want lots of action.

   What I really found fulfilling here is that we are starting to see quite a bit of the details, and inner workings, of what is hinted at in Hobb's previous books in the Realm of the Elderlings setting. There are some links that go so far as back to The Farseer Trilogy, and there is a direct link from The Tawny Man Trilogy. And of course The Rain Wilds Chronicles is in many way a direct continuation of The Liveship Traders Trilogy.
   This time around we also get a point of view from one of the main characters from The Liveship Traders. And she is in many ways set up to take an even bigger role in the next volume.

   Her characters are, in my opinion, the greatest strength of Hobb, and the ones we meet here are no exception. The novel mostly centres around the female characters, although there are a couple of male points of view. Most of the characters are also young, this does not mean the story is Young Adult, but it does mean that there are character interactions that are perhaps more often found in Young Adult novels.
   If you are looking for Epic Fantasy with female characters this is a good series. In this novel we get another one, and she is a welcome reacquaintance with someone from The Liveship Traders Trilogy. And if you, like me, enjoyed that trilogy this is definitely a must.

   Back to the story. Although it is slow, there is a lot happening towards the end of the book. And one of the events is a great revelation that feels like it could have repercussions for the whole of the Realm of the Elderlings setting.
   The end of the book is very much a set up for the next, and as far as I know final volume in the series. It has a very "middle volume non-ending" in many ways, but I had no trouble with that. There was enough happening that I felt satisfied, although I must say I am already a bit impatient for the next book to be published.

   All in all this was a very good book from Hobb. It does take its time, but that felt justified to me. And after reading eleven previous books in this setting I got a satisfying feeling that everything is at the point of coming together. This is a real treat for Hobb fans, and a really great exploration of the history of dragons and Elderlings.


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