Hobb has been one of my favorite fantasy authors for many years; I have read every book written under the Hobb name and I buy each as it is released in hardcover. Consequently, I was excited when she released Dragon Keeper, the first volume in her new Rain Wild series, in January 2010.
I eagerly set aside other books I was reading to take it up. Sadly, the book was a disappointment; it was merely an OK read, nothing to write home about. If the book is exciting and grabs me, I usually read a novel like this within a couple of days; but Dragon Keeper dragged on for a couple of weeks. The characters had little depth, the story little to hold interest. I struggled through the book, hoping that when the second book in the series was released in May 2010, everything would be better. And I particularly liked that I wouldn’t have to wait a year for the second book in the series.
Dragon Haven, the second book, was released on time. Admittedly, this book is a little better than the first book, but not by much — perhaps a fingernail’s worth. The characters have become slightly more memorable, the story perhaps a tad better, but overall I could care less if a third volume in the series is ever published.
The story follows the dragon keepers, a group of social misfits (misfits in the sense that because of their deformities they would normally have been abandoned at birth and not allowed to live and those who do live are forbidden to procreate) who are given the task of accompanying some newly hatched dragons on their quest for a place to live. As dragon keepers, they are responsible for grooming and hunting for the dragons. The first book establishes this relationship and we read how keeper and dragon begin to bond.
The second book picks up the story and we follow the keepers and the dragons until they find the mythical dragon home. Along the way, many of the dragons decide to turn their keepers into Elderlings, that is keepers with long lives who are physically shaped by their dragons, and one particularly uncaring dragon even decides to give her keeper wings because it fits the dragon’s sense of beauty.
OK, bottom line is who cares. The plot is dull, the characters have no depth, and there is much too much emphasis on the fact that a couple of the “humans” on this trip are homosexual. It actually seems more like an attempt to be politically correct — that is to have both hetero- and homosexuals in the story — than having the homosexuality add anything to the story. Perhaps that comes in the next volume, or perhaps never at all.
First it was L.E. Modesitt’s 16th volume in the Recluse series that disappointed (see L.E. Modesitt, Jr. & Celina Summers: Fantasy in Contrast), now it is Robin Hobb. I begin to wonder if these authors are putting any effort into their work or are simply trying to live off past glory.
In any event, I do not recommend Hobb’s Rain Wilds series. I think even die hard Hobb fans will be greatly disappointed. Perhaps the next volume will be the salvation volume, but if the first two volumes are any indication, it will just be more dull reading.