Review: Blood of Dragons

BloodofDragons.pngTitle: Blood of Dragons (2013)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 545
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #4, Realms of the Elderlings #13 (Series Tracker)

Blood of Dragons closes the door on the Rain Wild Chronicles tetralogy. I was expecting a grand finale, but was disappointed to read a more muted story that concluded several storylines that I did not care much about. Robin Hobb’s similarly structured Liveship Traders series had countless characters that all felt like important components of a densely woven tapestry, while this series felt less essential and grand, with a heavy focus on relationship drama. Gripes aside, this is not a bad book, just one I did not enjoy as much as most other Realms of Elderlings works. Four series down, one to go!

★★★¼ out of 5

Review: City of Dragons

d80f67438973206d458173c0fd7fabbdTitle: City of Dragons (2011)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 426
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #3, Realms of the Elderlings #12 (Series Tracker)

Upon finding Kelsingra, the titular “City of Dragons”, our dragons and their scaled human companions seek to gain a foothold in a mysterious place while also grappling with the physical changes that this mystical location has wrought upon them. Several new character POVs are seen, including a few whose nefarious aims threaten the strange settlement and its inhabitants.

While not as engaging as the prior Rain Wild book, scenes featuring Kelsingra were fascinating; it was unfortunate that more of the story did not take place there. Like the first book in this series, City of Dragons leans heavily on set-up, as this is the first half of what was originally one long manuscript. This story checks in with several underserved characters and sees where everyone is positioned for the big finale. I look forward to seeing how this tetralogy concludes, but with a title like Blood of Dragons it may not be smooth sailing for our weary adventurers.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Fool’s Errand

FoolsErrand-USTitle: Fool’s Errand (2001)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 662
Series: Tawny Man #1, Realms of the Elderlings #7 (Series Tracker)

It is so good to see these characters again after three books away. When we last left FitzChivalry Farseer, his story had ended in a place that I was comfortable with and he seemed to be at peace. I was initially apprehensive about his return to action, but author Robin Hobb eventually coaxed me back — just as Chade and The Fool do for Fitz. As such, our now-unretired protagonist must use his magical Wit and Skill to track down young Dutiful Farseer from interlopers with complicated aims.

As excited as I was to see the band back together, it really took a while for this story to get rolling. Hobb’s writing is top-notch, as always, so even long sequences of relative idleness are not difficult to stomach. About two-thirds of the way through, though, there was a scene that grabbed and shook me deeply. From that point forward, the action picked up and I flew through the final chapters. I’ve fully bought in to Fitz’s new story arc and I see great potential for the next books in this series. 7 books down, 9 to go!

★★★¾ out of 5

Review: Royal Assassin

68487Title: Royal Assassin (1996)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 752
Series: Farseer Trilogy #2, Realms of the Elderlings #2 (Series Tracker)

The mindless Forged ones gain in number, roaming the Six Duchies like a zombie horde. Within Buckkeep, FitzChivalry Farseer hones his skills as a covert assassin and takes on a greater role in the kingdom, while thwarting plays for the throne from Prince Regal, his scheming uncle.

I have circled back to this series after three years away, having enjoyed the first book well enough, but never having a burning passion to continue beyond that. Dipping my toe into book two quickly brought me back to the world of the Six Duchies and brought me an enjoyment level I never quite found with Assassin’s Apprentice. I am not sure if the quality has improved tremendously from the first book to the next, or if I just have a firmer grasp on what strong fantasy writing looks like.  

Robin Hobb creates such a clear picture of human nature and emotion with her writing. It may be long-winded at times, but each scene, no matter how subtle, has a purpose (building characters, setting up a mystery, or unraveling one). I appreciate the time she takes with character development, as it makes me care more about each individual character. Relationships feel more meaningful, betrayals more devastating. The focus on one royal family line makes this possible, as stories like Game of Thrones have such massive casts that you can only really know each player and family in a limited sense.

I enjoyed Royal Assassin immensely and burned through it just wanting to know what would become of our dear protagonist. I deem my re-entry into the series a great success and am going to attempt to work my way through the remaining 15 books of Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series. Only ~10,000 pages to go until the new book is out in May!

★★★★½ 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

Review: The Way of Kings

Title: The Way of Kings
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 1,007
Series: The Stormlight Archive #1 (Series Tracker)
Read via: 
Summary: In the world of Roshar, hurricane-like tempests called highstorms pound the landscapes with unrelenting ferocity. Under threat of constant storm bombardment, plants recoil and humans hide away waiting for the clouds to clear. The Way of Kings delves into the lives of several characters fighting battles both large and small on a journey to preserve some semblance of humanity in the midst of a brutal, unceasing storm.

Review: Having read the majority of Sanderson’s Cosmere novels in the past several months, The Way of Kings leaves everything else in the dust in terms of scale and ambition. This 1,000+ page tome is the first in a series of ten planned Stormlight Archive novels (ambitious, indeed). Sanderson lays the groundwork for a potentially groundbreaking work of high fantasy in his initial offering. I felt the need to pace myself, as the story unfolds slowly but not in a boring fashion. I very much enjoyed reading about the main characters, their motivations, and their moral dilemmas; such well developed backstories led to a much deeper sense of connection with the characters. The book starts a bit slowly, and the pacing was a bit uneven, but the conclusion was a barrage of rapid fire twists and satisfying payoffs. The plotlines raised countless questions and with each answer came a branch of five new questions, but that is to be expected from a series of such depth. I’m very excited to see what the future holds for this world, its characters, and how Sanderson continues to weave this tale moving forward.

★★★★½ out of 5