Review: Dragon Haven

dragonhavenTitle: Dragon Haven (2010)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 526
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #2, Realms of the Elderlings #11 (Series Tracker)

Many of Robin Hobb’s books begin with a set of characters that are broken in some way (physically, emotionally, by circumstance, etc.). Throughout the course of each book or series these characters are made whole through their experiences. Dragon Keeper introduced us to several flailing entities (feeble dragons, outcast keepers, multiple characters in doomed relationships), but it is from these small beginnings that these characters come into their own in Dragon Haven.

This book is very much a continuation of Dragon Keeper — which is not surprising, since these first two books were split from one long manuscript. Where the first book provided the set-up, Dragon Haven delivered with the action, romance, and pacing of a much more enjoyable book. I’ve become more connected with these characters, and in classic Robin Hobb fashion, I’m sharing in their triumphs and hurting from their defeats. Although it’s not quite at the level as the three preceding trilogies, this is a major improvement on the first book.

★★★¾ out of 5

Review: The Waking Fire

Title: The Waking Fire (2016)
Author: Anthony Ryan
Pages: 594
Series: The Draconis Memoria #1 (Series Tracker)

9781101987872Combine the magic system of Mistborn, the gunplay of Red Dead Redemption, the steampunk aesthetic of Bioshock Infinite, the dragons of Skyrim, a fun cast, a unique culture, and an intriguing Macguffin and you have The Waking Fire. I was expecting a traditional dragon-centric Epic Fantasy story and this was that and so much more.

The story follows three character POVs who are each integral to the hunt for the mythical White drake, whose blood grants unimaginable power to those who can ingest/wield it. Along the way, the characters are thrown into bar brawls, naval battles, dragon fights, zombie horde skirmishes, and so on — frankly, the steady barrage of action sequences was a bit dizzying. I would have happily sacrificed a few of these scenes for some additional character development. With that in mind, the book feels overlong, but luckily never loses its sense of excitement. Author Anthony Ryan has built a thrilling and fascinating world that I plan on revisiting soon in the forthcoming sequel, The Legion of Flame (2017).

★★★¾ out of 5

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: A Natural History of Dragons

3861af64c1f9c7a81ddb96a914c415a3Title: A Natural History of Dragons (2013)
Author: Marie Brennan
Pages: 334
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1

A Natural History of Dragons begins the memoirs of Isabella Camherst, a preeminent authority on dragon biology. This volume is her origin story, chronicling her first expedition to observe dragons in the wild.

While the story feels delightfully British, is easy to follow, and features a likable protagonist, I never quite connected with it. I think the whimsical nature of Isabella’s retelling saps the tale of any emotional heft, but that is not to say that the book would have benefited from a more dour tone. On the contrary, I think the tone it sets is necessary for the celebrity-biologist-memoir that it aims to be. Many people will (and have) enjoyed this novel and its subsequent sequels, but I will bow out after this tale.

★★½ out of 5