Friday, 31 January 2014

City of Dragons - Robin Hobb


After a long, arduous journey that was wrought with disaster, the Kelsingra expedition has finally reached its end. The dragon keepers are wearing little more than rags, with barely enough equipment for a few people between them all; the crew of the Tarman is starved and exhausted; and the dragons continuing to grow, now requiring an unsustainable quantity of food as winter draws in.

In an effort to save the expedition, Captain Leftin races back to Cassarick to collect the money the Trader’s Council owes them to purchase some much needed supplies. Even as he traverses the Rain Wilds, Leftrin knows that he’s going to need all of his wits to keep from the jaws of the Council. They are determined to find out and lay claim to what the expedition found upriver; coveting any profit that could be made.

Worse still, other traders—the business elite of Rain Wild culture—descend on Casserick like vultures the moment the Tarman is spotted. The most affluent of their number have used their wealth and influence to hire vessels to chase the liveship upstream, including strange foreign longboats that can sail at great speed and are impervious to the river’s acidic water. Leftrin knows he must flee them, but heading upstream with a barge laden with supplies will be slow going. If he fails, he risks more than the decadent greed of the traders. He could return to find the whole expedition has perished . . .

The Good
City of Dragons is the best instalment of the Rain Wild Chronicles yet! Although it’s not quite as exciting as The Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven overall, it really begins to delve into the mythology surrounding dragons and, in particular, elderlings. This makes for fascinating reading as Robin Hobb as created a rich and well-established symbiotic culture where each party worked to better the lives of the other. Hobb spends a great deal of time developing these ideas and has really set the groundwork for a very exciting finale of the series in Blood of Dragons.

Once again, Hobb’s prose flows well and is very easy to follow. In fact, her writing makes reading the book almost effortless and she has a knack of really immersing my in her world; dropping me straight in the environment of her characters. As well as making the book very enjoyable, it shows me that Hobb is a very talented writer and is certainly worthy of her reputation as a master of fantasy!

Hobb’s chacterisation continues to be first rate in City of Dragons and the people in the story seem almost real, with the same faults and failings that mar us in real life. Mistakes are made as frequently as the correct decisions and, with motivations of blackmail and greed driving many of the characters, it’s extremely difficult to predict  what will happen next!

The Bad
The biggest problem I had with the book was with Thymara and her continual whingeing about whether or not she should lose her virginity. While this is obviously a big deal for people—particularly for women—it actually has nothing to do with the storyline and Hobb has kept it up for three books now. Thymara’s whining did begin to get on my nerves a bit and I found many parts in the book slightly grating.

My Thoughts
City of Dragons is a detailed, well-thought out book that is exciting and interesting to read. While giving details of the elderlings, Hobb has already begun to tie up many strands of the story and has laid the groundwork for Blood of Dragons to be a fantastic finale to the series! If you haven’t already, I would recommend giving the series a go (although Hobb’s unconventional view of dragons takes some accepting and might not be to everyone’s taste).

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