Book Review: Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb (book one of the Rain Wilds Chronicles)

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb art by Jackie Morris

Day the 2nd of the Plough Moon

This is the first book by Robin Hobb that I’ve ever read, and it was a treat! I am always a little suspicious of “high” fantasy (although we could be here all day trying to define exactly what counts), which is probably why it’s taken me so long to read anything by this author. However, I’m really enjoying her writing and she has a backlog of about thirty books! Hooray!

Now, as far as I can tell nearly all of Robin Hobb’s books are set in the same world, but they are handily grouped into quartets and trilogies so that it is possible to jump in as I have done. The advantage of this is that the world in this book felt very established. A lot of thought has clearly gone into the basics: geography, economy, politics and history. This is evident without being something that sidelines the plot: the world is just ticking over in the background, as worlds do. There are cities in the trees, political upheaval abroad, merchant towns and riverpeople, and they all merge and fit without having to try to be convincing. It’s also nice when fantasy writers have clearly thought about practicalities like, for instance, contraception. It makes me happy. And also, I like reading fantasy worlds that aren’t thinly-veiled Europe.

The point-of-view changes quite often, and was done in a way that was exciting rather than confusing. The characters themselves I found a bit tricky at times, but mostly I warmed to them. They’re all very much products of their world, which is again something that I like in fantasy. One of the point-of-view characters is actually a dragon, which was really fun! I did spend quite a bit of time yelling at some of the characters (cough Alise and Sedric cough), but only because I cared about them and I want them to be happy damnit! The cast was too big to mention everyone, so a quick favourites list: Thymara, a Rain Wilds girl who should have been killed at birth due to her scaly deformities, fiercely independent; Alise Kincarron, a scholar of dragons trapped in a loveless marriage; Rapskal, an endlessly cheerful Rain Wilds boy; Erik and Detozi, pigeon keepers of Bingtown and Cassarick respectively, who we only meet in letters; Tarman, a liveship; Sedric Meldar, something of a dandy…

The plot itself is rather slow moving, and it does not speed up. Indeed, this book finished just as I was really getting my teeth into it! That’s not to say that it was unenjoyable, just that it was steady and built over time. The writing is really lovely, and there are three more books in The Rain Wild Chronicles so I’m interested to see what Robin Hobb does with the foundation she’s built here.

Rating: Read this book, and imagine you are a great jeweled serpent gliding beneath the sea…

Book recommendations and update

Hellooo! How have you been? Yes, I missed you all a lot, I’ve just been super busy over here. Mainly trying to find a home for my newest creation (approximately 13,000 words of fantasy oddness, which is a difficult length to find a home for. I’ve had a very encouraging rejection, which was fantastic, but am now left trying to find a new home for it)(so if you know anywhere that likes this length, do let me know!).

Reading: I am currently between books *gasp* I have just recently finished the Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab, which consists of A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows and A Conjuring of Light

Now this series is excellent. The worldbuilding is detailed, deep, and pleasing. I loved the mechanics of the magic, the set-up of the different Londons and the uniqueness of each London, so absolutely a part of the world it was in but intrinsically connected to the others. The characters – bloody hell, but VE Schwab makes the reader care about every single character. Even the background ones that only walk on for a few sentences. Even the villains. I could attempt to list my favourite characters, but it would be a very long list consisting of every name that I can remember. (For anyone who wants to know, my absolute favourite was Holland closely followed by Astrid Dane, Lila Bard and Maris who all tie in second). Each one is compelling and flawed and so very painfully human, with their own stories hovering just out of my sight. The plot is tight, well structured and yanks you along with it. V.E. Schwab successfully built a world in which things felt new, which as someone who reads large amounts of fantasy, was really really fun. And the story itself is… Well, it was akin to having my heart in someone else’s hand, knowing that at any second they might crush it or send it soaring. And it did both so so brilliantly. Also, there were some lovely queer characters who SPOILER WARNING SPOILER WARNING get to have a mostly happy ending yay(as much as anyone does in this series. Also, I would have liked them to have more pagespace)! END SPOILER and a cross dressing thief. I HEARTILY recommend this series. And if you have read it already, come and weep in the comments with me. A huge thank you to my friend who lent me these, as I am way to skint too buy them for myself at the moment.

I should probably note that I use the word ‘queer’ as an umbrella term, and that it’s one that I use for myself because I can’t be arsed to get into specifics of my sexuality all the time. It’s meant in a super friendly way, but if it’s upsetting anyone do let me know.

So, continued update! I have a massive “to read” pile. Here are a few 0f the things on it:

  • The Knowing by Kevan Manwaring – really looking forward to this as, disclaimer, I know the author and chatted about it a bit when it was being written.
  • The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth – I have to read this out loud to understand it, but excited!
  • The Long Woman also by Kevan Manwaring
  • Keeper of the Dawn by Diana L Gunn
  • The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan (I’ve read this before, but I was ill so I’m reading it again)

I also have a pretty big backlog of books that I’ve read, but not managed to review yet. Here are a few of those:

  • The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  • Among Others by Jo Walton
  • Ganymede by Cherie Priest
  •  Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
  • Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I’m unlikely to get to all of these, so I’m likely to review them a bit at random. If there’s any that you’d really like a review on, leave me a comment. I’ve also just finished a re-read of Kate Tempest’s Hold Your Own, which is mindblowing and brilliant. I’ll try to get back to you with reviews sooner this time!

Book Reviews: announcement and Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

I have read a lot of books recently, however I’m struggling a bit to find time to write “proper” reviews of them (super busy with work and writing a new story). So I thought I’d do a series of bite-size reviews of around 250 – 300 words each, just until I have more time again. I’m sure there will be some longer ones mixed in there! I hope you enjoy 🙂

Let us begin!Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

I powered up the transporter and said a silent prayer.

This is an incredible book. Short, at ninety pages, but full. Bursting, almost, with ideas and skill and craftwork. I believe I described the other Nnedi Okorafor title that I’ve read, The Book of Phoenix, as being a cataclysm. This is a quieter book, but no less powerful. Binti is of the Himba people, and she is leaving her home and her planet to attend Oomza Uni, which flies in the face of tradition. Please note that I am not knowledgeable about the Himba people, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of the representation in this book.

It’s hard, really, to know what to say because there is so much contained in this slim volume. Binti is a fantastic protagonist; completely believable in her characterisation. From the first sentence I am drawn in and intrigued: I want to know who she is, where she’s from, where she is going and why. And I empathised with her, to the point of snarling “what the f*ck?” under my breath when a stranger in a public space touched Binti’s hair without asking (which I know is a real problem, and a whole other subject deserving of lots of space because it’s so not okay, ever, to grab a stranger’s hair!) and yelped out loud, and swore some more at other distressing points (this is me trying to avoid spoilers) and cried when Binti lost her friends. Messily. There was snot, people. The world building was also excellent, and very impressive; creating such a real science-fiction world in a mere ninety pages must, I imagine, have been quite hard (also one spoiler: spaceship fish!). I cried at the end as well, because this is such a beautiful novella and I want more. Luckily there is more, and I’m just waiting on my next payday to buy the sequel.

Mathematics is something of a theme, as Binti primarily got into Oomza Uni with her incredible mathematics score. I really struggle with maths, but the novella is still completely readable and enjoyable and I actually found myself thinking things like “Hmmmm, maybe maths isn’t so bad, maybe I should go learn more maths”. And aliens and friendship and and and and I have to shut up now or I’ll just squeee.

So to conclude, brilliant main character, excellent writing, excellent story about growing up and making choices (and lots of other things) and more to come!

Rating: read this book, learn about equations.