Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Series Review: The Rain Wild Chronicles - Robin Hobb


Once, dragons ruled the world. Their majesty was everywhere and humans lived in awe. Many chose to serve the dragons and were rewarded for their loyalty with long life and good health. Elderlings, as they were called, enjoyed the changes dragons wrought upon them and became more like lizards then men. They were powerful in magic and used their gifts to create Kelsingra - a city that was wondrous to behold and existed only to serve dragons and tend for their health.

But those days past. Dragons died away and the grand cities Elderlings built passed in legend, crumbling into ruin and disrepair. It is in the Rain Wilds - dangerous swamps that once boasted forests and vast swathes of fertile land - that these cities were found. The Traders that lived there excavated the ruined cities and, there, found a single dragon that still contained life: Tingalia, a dragon queen. When Tingalia hatched as a serpent, she swam to the ocean where she dwelt for many years until it was time to change into her adult, dragon form. It was then she found others of her race - eggs that she nurtured until they hatched and made their own journey to the ocean.

But the dragons that returned were not what she hoped when they emerged from their cocoons. They were weak, stunted and deformed. Such dragons were not meant to survive, but they were all that was left of the once noble race. Tingalia brokered a deal with the Traders of Trehaug and those who lived there agreed to care for the dragons so Tingalia could leave and seek others of her kind. The arrangement worked at first, but feeding growing dragons is expensive and the creatures are dangerous in the best of moods.

It was decided that the dragons had to leave and the Trader's Council assigned keepers to each one, sending them on a quest upriver to find Kelsingra so all could live in peace. The expedition would be far from easy and the Rain Wilds are an unforgiving place. Its very waters are acidic. Food and supplies are scare. Storms frequently barrage the swamp and the dragon's keepers are little more than children - those unlucky enough to be born so mutated that they are shunned by the Traders and condemned to a life of derogatory exile. Few think the expedition could be successful, but the riches it could bring to Trehaug merited the risk. The expedition set forth and, soon, the keepers and Captain Leftrin (who is employed as a guide and logistics) realise just what dire straights they are in . . . 

Book 2: Dragon Haven

The Good
The Rain Wild Chronicles is well written and exciting. Robin Hobb does a superb job of bringing her characters to life and many of them feel like real people, having developed lives, emotions and motivations behind their actions as we do. She has managed to create a rich world for the series that is full of problems and it's extremely interesting to read about.

Robb also tweaked dragon lore slightly and the dragons in the book are slightly unconventional. They have very complex life cycles and actually begin their existence as aquatic serpents that live in the oceans. It's only when they reach adulthood that they spin cocoons from mud and their saliva and become fully-fledged dragons that spit acid and are able to influence humans through their 'glamour'. These changes do make her dragons less formidable than those of other authors, but they are enjoyable to read about and Hobb really links their life-cycle to the story, which is largely responsible for many of the problems the dragons have in the book.

The Bad
Although developed characters are a good thing in any book, Hobb did overdo it a bit and The Rain Wild Chronicles is essentially four books of one of the keepers - Thymara - whining about relationships and losing her virginity. This added a realism to her character at first, since these are issues we all worry about, but became extremely annoying by the end and ruined the book a bit, making it hard for me to like Thymara (who is actually one of the main PoV characters)!

My Thoughts
Overall though, The Rain Wild Chronicles is a pretty decent series and should make your 'to read' list. It's imaginative, well written and full of characters that can really touch your heart. It's a superb example of fantasy at its best and shows that the genre is far from stale!

No comments:

Post a Comment