Review: Dragon Keeper

9780061561627_0_CoverTitle: Dragon Keeper (2009)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 500
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #1, Realms of the Elderlings #10 (Series Tracker)

It’s always difficult to leave Fitz behind, especially for a tetralogy that is regarded as the weak point in the Realms of the Elderlings series. I was hoping that a story devoted to several dragons would be big, bold, and thrilling; unfortunately, the dragons found in this opening tome were weak, malformed, and helpless. Obviously, this is just the beginning and things will likely change in the forthcoming books, but it was a disappointing revelation that Tintaglia and dragons like her were nowhere to be found.

That’s not to say that there is nothing to like about this book. Compared to the Liveship Traders trilogy, this story is much more focused, the cast is less sprawling, and the characters convergence more quickly. The main characters are complex, likable, and varied. From Alise, the erudite Bingtown trader’s daughter, to Thymara, the societal outcast seeking a place in the world, and to Leftrin, the shrewd ship captain with a heart; each character seems to have virtuous aims with realistic faults, and that makes them easy to root for.

Overall, though, this novel was mostly character introduction and set-up; it never captivated me like Hobb’s other works, but I will push forward to the next book to see if the story picks up.

★★★ out of 5

Review: Nyphron Rising

41QcBGJCE0L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Nyphron Rising (2009)
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Pages: 350
Series: The Riyria Revelations #3 (Series Tracker)

In Nyphron Rising, Royce and Hadrian travel south with Princess Arista to rally Nationalist sympathizers to their cause, as the Nyphron Church attempts to use their clout and sham “Heir of Novron” to conquer Elan. After two stellar opening books, this was a bit of a letdown. As the focus shifts to military maneuvering and away from caper-like adventures, I find myself less invested in the proceedings.

Royce and Hadrian remain wonderful leads, but these stories live and die with who else is along for the ride. I loved Myron the monk in the first book and Eshrahaddon the wizard in the second, but there is no standout side character to be found in this story. Princess Arista has risen to supporting role and has a nice arc, but it seems like the best is yet to come for her. These are all minor quibbles for an overall story that still feels fresh and fun, and will hopefully have major payoffs in the back half of the series.

★★★ out of 5

Review: Avempartha

avemparthaTitle: Avempartha (2009)
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Pages: 331
Series: The Riyria Revelations #2

Michael J. Sullivan’s books are fantasy comfort food  — likable characters, charming dialogue, clean plots, and unexpected twists all make for something infinitely enjoyable. Avempartha is no different. The second book of the Riyria Revelations series finds Hadrian and Royce, our intrepid rogues, tasked with breaking into yet another tower. This time they contend with a mythical flying reptile (not a dragon!) and the helpless villagers of a nearby town that have drawn the ire of the beast.

Despite hitting many of the same beats as the first novel, Avempartha charts some new territory — unforeseen information about the past of Hadrian and Royce is revealed, an unknown peasant girl rises to prominence, and the Church of Nyphron misuses their authority to further their (somewhat) noble aims.

I was disappointed that Myron, the naive monk from The Crown Conspiracy (see review), is nowhere to be found, but Esrahaddon, the 900-year-old wizard, is elevated into a supporting role, and his hidden maneuvering and prevarication makes him a compelling foil for Hadrian and Royce. The presence of princess Arista and peasant girl Thrace brings more visibility to the female characters of the world, but they are mostly used as the pawns of others and don’t have much of their own agency.

Sullivan has built a familiar, yet unique world that has deep mythical roots. Knowing that the lore is being fleshed out in his prequel series The Legends of the First Empire (see Age of Myth review) ensures that I don’t gloss over any passing mentions of the history of the world. I am more than happy to continue the Riyria journey in the present day and I look forward to moving on to Nyphron Rising.

★★★★ out of 5