Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dragon Keeper

The Dragon Keeper (Rain Wild Chronicles, #1)The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like Robin Hobb. She's very good at writing an epic story where the characters spend most of their thoughts and efforts on non-epic subjects. In most of fantasy, there is a quest to save the world, and most of the time, characters talk about or work on this quest. Robin Hobb's characters spend a lot of their time thinking about who they're with, what their place in a group is, what they have to do right now, and often don't have much of a plan, just like real people. I think it is telling that the magic of her world has nothing to do with fireballs, healing or dark wizards. Instead it is about relationships. The magic affects bonds between people, and sometimes animals.

This book deals with feminism, dominating partners and closet homosexuality. There is no actual sex, but there is a viewpoint character who is attracted to men, and describes his first encounter with someone of the same orientation. This made me a little squeamish, but not terribly so. I thought the relationship with the dominating partner was very insightful.

Another angle that piques my interest is ecological. The dragons in this book are the remnants of an almost extinct species. Due to natural disaster, their life cycle was interrupted, and their habitat changed entirely. The river valley that once was their breeding ground has become a wide swathe of swamp, marsh and rain forest, with no dry land to build on. The water is always slightly acidic, and after earthquakes, will sometimes run white and strong enough to scald. Humans have built in trees, and have found the ruins of ancient cities, which they excavate for treasures that they do not understand. Dragons can no longer sustain themselves and must rely on the humans for survival.

As interesting as I make this sound, in the end this is a book about dragons. If you can't take dragons, you won't like this book. If you haven't read any of Robin Hobb's books, I would suggest starting with the beginning, Assassin's Apprentice, set in a different part of this same world, but more accessible, told in first person, from the point of view of a child growing up. Melinda didn't finish it, but I think it should be enjoyable to a wider audience.

*This was the second book I've read on my iPod Touch, and I quite enjoyed it. I may begin reading more ebooks.

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