Book Review: Blood of Dragons

blood-of-dragonsI have indulged in the intricate weaving of character development that is the Rain Wilds Chronicles much as I have engaged all of Robin Hobb’s other works: from the beginning. Hobb is a master storyteller, but where she really shines is the molding of characters, pounding out personality with emotion and pulling them along in such a way that leaves us all not merely intrigued, but attached. Her heart is in it, and she wants our hearts to be in it as well—and one can feel it here in Blood of Dragons as surely as any other.

Let me begin by saying this is not a book of intense action. They tell me the devil’s in the details and Robin Hobb loves details. They pour out of her into a rich, beautifully developed world. Unfortunately, this also means a slower pace—but if you enjoy character-driven narrative and worldbuilding as much as I do, that won’t be the problem for you. And that said, this book is quicker than its predecessor, lacking that “middle” book syndrome that unfortunately seemed to plague it.

But first of all: welcome to Kelsingra! If you read the last book (and why are you reading this if you haven’t? Bad reader, bad!), this will pick up right where you left off, with our weary group of outcasts struggling to achieve that final dragon dream: flight. Of course, this leads into another hunt, as the dragons begin to crave a substance from the deepest of their memories: the mysterious Silver that was once the lifeblood of the city and its many, fancier properties. Meanwhile, with Chalcedean assassins on the loose and the bumbling, vindictive Hest still stalking about, danger has not yet passed.

Also: Elderling baby. And the continuation of the birdkeeper plot that’s started off chapters from the beginning.

Suffice to say, there’s still a lot of wrap up. The sheer wealth of characters the series has pulled in has guaranteed that. And in that regard, I will give Hobb this: she definitely wraps things up with a tidy bow. The conclusion to several of the character arcs were genuinely enjoyable—and for me, at least, so were the opening developments with Alise, which, let’s just say: it’s about time. I’m still not entirely sure why Hobb felt the need to toss in the part of Selden into the mix later in the game, but it does help with the coming together—and probably sets up potential for more adventures later (I.E. more series).

My genuine befuddlement, however, comes from the fact that as slow, laboriously paced as these books could sometimes get, the ending, the grand conclusion herein, felt so utterly rushed. Without committing any sort of spoiler death here, I’ll suffice to say it was startling to observe just how off-screen and minimalized the whole matter was, particularly when Hobb spends so much time building everything else up. While her primary focus is (and always has been) her characters, I think this particular short-change to the action was a touch off-putting.

That said, I will keep this review going to make one more point—the main point of the series itself, in all honesty: the Dragons. All along, I have found the development and characterization of the dragons the most unique and intriguing piece of these novels. From their own growth as outcasts and malformed “rejects,” as it were, to prideful longing, and the sometimes subtle ways more human characteristics have been leaking into their psyche. Each has their own personality, rather than falling back on the classic, “Dragons are mean!” or alternatively “All Dragons are good!” mindset. They come to us as a bizarre mirror of ourselves—like humans with a lot more weight and more than a few neat tricks up their sleeves.

But in the end, I have to say: if put to a matter of “stars,” this one earns a 3.5/5. The story and character development are rich, but things truly can drag their heels from time to time. These books take a certain brand of fantasy lover to fall in love with them, but for those that know and enjoy the style, Blood of Dragons will not disappoint.