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on 5 August 2009
Given that this book is part one of two, it is exceptionally good. Without that understanding though, you may wonder why it only really starts to get exciting right at the end with the rest of the book being gentle set-up.

Robin Hobb's writing style is beautiful. Slightly flowery but never too ornate for clarity, it soothes and calms me. The writing in this book flows particularly well with characters and places coming alive through careful descriptions.

Her world is, in my opinion, her strongest selling point. The realm of the Elderlings has been carefully constructed in other books (it is probably helpful though by no means necessary to have read at least the Liveships before this one) and is continued here. The life cycle of the dragons is given a strong focus and there are delightful peaks at Elderling relics, magical objects from a lost time. It feels unique in the world of fantasy as it does not draw on medieval times but a more prosperous era of trading and travel with a Puritanical society.

The characters themselves aren't as fresh as those in her other books (for example, the Liveships series with the pirate Kennit) but they are presented with the potential to be magnificent after a bit of growing up. A strength of this book is the multiple point of view storytelling which allows for the same character to be seen from different perspectives. The cast is quite small though and it takes very little time for them to become embroiled in the same plot making it easier to follow than many other sprawling multi-pov fantasy books. Plus her depiction of how dragons think is fantastic.

The book covers themes of marriage, sexuality, deformity, appearance, society, emancipation... and I daresay I have missed many. The plot is simply the formation of a ragtag band, including dragons, travelling to find a better place.

Overall I highly recommend this book and other books by Robin Hobb. Her writing is lyrical and her worlds original.
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on 2 July 2009
I would have to say that Robin Hobb's Assassins, Liveships and Tawny Man trilogies are among the finest examples of contemporary sci-fi fantasy that I have been fortunate enough to encounter. That being said, I was utterly dissapointed with the Soldier's Son series which, while not being bad exactly, was simply not on the same par.

As excited as I was to hearof this new series returning to the world of the orginal trilogies I must admit that I approached it with a certain level of trepidation because of my dissapointment in the soldiers son series. Furthermore, when I did actually pick this book up, the typing error on the second line of the first page on my copy made me worry a little about the quality of the editing.

However, I literally read the book from cover to cover within the space of a night and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it- although, as already noted, some of the time period jumps were not as fluid as they could have been and occasionally disrupted the flow somewhat.

The reason I gave it 3 rather than 4 or 5 stars is simply that this book reads very much like an introduction or set up to the series rather than being a true novel in its own right. 400 or so pages in and the dragons had only just started their journey and, character development aside (and very good character development at that) very little actually happens.

I can't wait for the second book to really get my teeth into this story and to be honest, if you haven't already picked up this book I would actually recommend waiting on at the least the second installments release before you do.
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on 1 July 2009
Before I began `Dragon Keeper' I was aware that the story was originally intended to be a single volume and was only split into two parts when the author's page-count exceeded what was considered appropriate for a stand-alone novel. This latest novel from Hobb is extremely enjoyable and engrossing in its own right (no surprise at all to anyone who's had the pleasure of reading any of her previous works). But if it does seem to move a little slower and offer less immediately thrilling plot developments along the way, I would suggest this is due to the story being paced as the first 500 pages of a novel intended to be 1,000 pages+. So I imagine the second half of the story will offer a substantial increase in thrills & revelations. So I find myself in limbo longing for the two halves of the `Dragon Keeper' tale to be reunited, so that I can learn of all that befalls this eclectic group of characters in such a distinctive, fantastical & compelling story as is debuted here.

As this story takes place in the same world as that of Hobb's other trilogies (`The Farseer', `Liveship Traders' and `Tawny Man' trilogies), focusing in particular on an area called the Rain Wilds that was the setting for many scenes in the books in the `Liveship Traders' trilogy, I felt I had an advantage in having previously read and reveled in the three books of that trilogy. But in the same way that the `Soldier Son' trilogy could be read independently of Hobb's other works, similarly `Dragon Keeper' felt very much to me like a novel that might be enjoyed by newcomers with no prior knowledge of the setting or writing style. With this book Hobb is writing with a clean slate; introducing a new set of characters and exploring fresh material. In the rare instances when some events from previous trilogies do need to be mentioned, Hobb's gift for exposition means these passages integrate perfectly and are made enjoyable in their own right.

Alise, Thymara, Leftrin, Sedric, Sintara, Mercor and Tarman...these are all characters introduced to me for the first time in this story and in just 553 pages I've already fallen under their spell. More please.
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on 21 September 2012
I made the mistake of starting with The Dragon Keeper. Yes, it can stand on its own, but it is a part of a wider world. My suggestion to you is to start at the beginning, With the Assassin's Apprentice and read your way through the Assassin, Liveship Traders and The Tawny Man trilogies. It sounds like too much, but trust me, if you like the Rain Wilds, you will eventually read them all. So do yourself a favor and dive into Hobb's fantastic world where it begins. It is so worth it, as she weaves her stories masterfully and draws you in slowly but surely. I have never cared for the characters in a book so much, or understood them so thoroughly.
Try the Assassin's Apprentice, meet Nighteyes, sail the Liveships and discover what the Sea serpents are trying to remember, free Icefyre and then come to the Rain Wild River. It is a journey worth taking.
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on 7 August 2009
I didn't realise this was in the pipleline and was really excited when I came across it in a bookshop. Like others have mentioned I was also a bit dubious because I got bored with the Soldier Son series mid-way through book 2 and didn't bother reading any further.

This series is much better and more along the lines of the Farseer and Liveship books which I love. The spelling mistakes throughout really irked me and some parts were unnecessarily repetitive. Overall though I enjoyed this book and read it within a couple of days. I especially liked the way familiar characters from the Liveship trilogy appeared in "cameos". Definitley worth a read particularly if you enjoyed the Liveship books. But not worth the hardback price.
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on 5 May 2016
It’s funny when friends tell you that a book you have to read is good, but not as good as some of the other output by the same author. This then, was the case as I prepared to start The Dragon Keeper, first book in The Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb.

Of course you know that when reading a book by an author of the calibre of Hobb, that a weaker book is still going to be head and shoulders above a lot of the other novels out there.

The story is set around Bingtown and the Rain Wilds, both locations that played heavily in her Liveship Trader novels, while at the same time picking up events from both the end of those books and the Tawny Man Trilogy. The reappearance of dragons in the form of Tintaglia has triggered major changes for the traders of Bingtown and the Rain Wild natives, perhaps the biggest being their role in preparing the way for the next generation of dragons. But things have not gone as planned, when hatched the dragons are far from perfect, weak and deformed. To make matters worse Tintaglia has apparently gone, losing interest in the new generation after finding a mate in the form of the dragon Icefyre.

With humans losing interest in the dragons, and the dragons slowly succumbing to the appalling conditions in which they live it seems that the is a grim future ahead, until a plan is hatched, by both dragons and humankind, to move them away from settlement and to freedom, a quest to find another long forgotten, ancient home of the creatures. Along the way they will need keepers, and so the story is set up and executed.

As one would expect from a Hobb book the characters are exquisite, presented, quite literally in some cases, in their warts and all glory. In fact it is there individual stories and backgrounds that steal the novel away from the quest that is to be undertaken. In that aspect the book cannot fail, Hobb has always had a knack of giving you characters that can make you squirm all root for, and the Dragon Keeper is no different. From an independent woman binding herself into a loveless marriage, to social outcasts finding a role for themselves, to dragons who don’t really know what they are, to honour bound traders agreements and subtle plays for leadership the book is driven well.

There is the world itself, obviously already constructed and in place from previous books. It works beautifully, but this is where some of the ‘discontent’ might creep in slightly. We get to see the world in full flow, the way people live in the world, the society of Bingtown, and the alien severity of the Rain Wilds, but we are offered nothing new. The descriptions re-enforce what we have learned before, but there is nothing that adds to the well-built world that was first revealed to us. (This book though by the end takes us into new territory so it is something to look forwards to).
The dragons themselves are handled well, but not in the way you might imagine. Tintaglia, and Icefyre have burned themselves of the page with a majesty and wonder that seems larger than life. This is not the case here, the dragons are more base, animal like. Listless and dulled. Not a criticism though, it is the way they are meant to be portrayed you can see that they are not quite the same as the full grown dragons, that their spirit is as dimmed and malformed as their bodies. It is something that starts to change as they have keepers to look after them, even more so as they gain a freedom they have never known.

In the earlier part of the book I did find a problem with one of the main relationships, there is a homo-sexual element in play that is underplayed but obvious, so when the revelation comes there is no big shock. This might be the way it was intended, but then why not mention it from the beginning unless it was a way of portraying a naivety within the main character, Alise. There was also the feeling of the orientation of the characters being hidden as though it were wrong, but then it is a reflection of the society in which the characters live, not our own - and it is something that strengthens as the story continues.

There is a lot put in place here, with some interesting hints of what is to come.

So, not Hobbs best book, but a superlative read never-the-less.
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on 7 April 2010
I'd enjoyed the Farseer trilogy, hadn't read the Liveship ones.
Unfortunately, picked this up on a whim and was really disappointed.
It reads as almost 600 pages of background/introduction to characters who will presumably do something in the next book. If it wasn't for the inclusion of dragons then it would be filed under "romance" rather than "fantasy".

All of the characters are predictable, none of them had me rooting for them as they whined their way through the story.

Normally, a book this size would take me a few days to finish - this took two weeks of reading on the train just so I could finish it (don't like to just stop a book). Couldn't be bothered to pick it up and read in the evenings.

I know this review doesn't seem to tie in with most of the others here, but it could be safely skipped and just jump to book 2 where hopefully something will happen. I won't be someone who finds out, having been put off it by this book.
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on 13 January 2016
Took a while to warm up. Good fantasy. All sorts of discrimination and portrayals of the strengths and weaknesses of animal and (man) kind. Storyline strengthened as it progressed. Good read towards the end.
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on 16 July 2015
I bought all four books in the series before reading the first one because Robin Hobb is one of those authors who has never let me down, until now. Looking at all those 5 star reviews my opinion clearly isn't in synch with the majority, but I found it increasingly difficult to care what happened next. I hated the characters, they were more like stereo types than real people, the good guys so virtuous and goodly they made me want to vomit, and the two dimensional bad guys blandly followed the bad guy role. The first two books in the series had focus, getting the dragons to Kelsingra, and though I didn't like them, the end of book 2 had a conclusion and in my opinion the series should have stopped there. The 3rd and 4th book meandered aimlessly with no discernible plot until 80% of the way through book 4, something interesting happened, and I thought it was finally going to get interesting, but no, the potentially exciting events are brushed over in a handful of pages and its back to the drivel, and then its all over.

If you like reading about angsty women very slowly and tediously throwing off their oppression with a few dragons plodding along for company then you will probably give this series 5 stars. It bored the tits off me. Don't buy all 4 books at once, make sure you enjoy book 1 first.
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on 21 January 2014
The Dragon Keeper is the first book in the fourth series set in the Realm of the Elderlings, the Rain Wild Chronicles. This series has been out for quite a while now, and knowing how the series can overlap at times, I knew I had to catch up before the next Fitz and Fool series is released. I asked for this for Christmas, got it, and dived right in. And what a fantastic book it is!

The Dragon Keeper is narrated by Thymara, Leftrin, Alise, and one of the newly hatched dragons, Sintara in 3rd person. It's great to read about each of their lives, and how they interlink. Thymara is a Rainwilder, and so heavily marked by the Rain Wilds, she is an outcast among her own people. Rain Wilders are generally marked in some way - some scaling, some possible growths - but any child born too "deformed" is exposed - abandoned to be dealt with by the elements or the animals of the rain forest. Thymara, with her claws and fair amount of scales, should have been exposed at birth, but her father refused to let the midwife do it. She has always had a fascination with the dragons, so when the opportunity comes up to be a dragon keeper, she jumps at the chance. Being as heavily marked as she is, Thymara will not have much of a future. She is not allowed to get married or have children. She will be a burden on her parents her whole life, depending on them, because the other Rain Wilders are so prejudiced. Thymara sees becoming a dragon keeper as her chance to try and build a life for herself. Even if things don't work out, at least she would have tried.

Leftrin is the captain of trading barge, and trading is his life. All he knows - all he wants - is the Rain Wilds River, sailing up and down, buying and selling goods. However, when the chance to help guide the dragons to their new resting grounds arises, Leftrin knows he can earn a pretty pennyl. His liveship Tarman is the only vessel who has any chance of making it up the river, and the Traders Council at Cassarisk, where the dragons currently abide, needs his barge. So he can ask whatever he wants.

Alise Finbok is in a loveless and cruel marriage. The only things that gets her through the day are her scholarly pursuits to learn more about the dragons and the Elderlings. She buys scroll after scroll, translating where she can, making it her business to know everything there is to know. Her fascination becomes her lifeline, her means of temporary escape when her husband, Hest, finally agrees to stand by a stipulation in their marriage contract, that Alise will be able to go to Cassarisk to study the dragons in person.

Sintara is one of the dragons. With stunted, flimsy wings and a body that's not nearly as big as it should be, she is ashamed of herself and the other dragons. With her ancestral memories of what dragons of old were like, she knows something went wrong during their cocooning. Dragons were not meant to be land creatures, but beautiful beasts of the sky, going where they wished, eating what they wished, sleeping when they wished. But she and the others rely on the help of humans in almost every way as they cannot leave the ground. To creatures of pride and arrogance, it's a mean blow to live in such forms and rely on humans who are tiring of looking after them. When the dragons speak of convincing the humans to take them to Kelsingra, Sintara knows they must go. Better to try to find the mythical city of Kelsingra and attempt to become a true dragon, than to die in the mud.

I know what I've said above sounds like a lot, but it barely scratches the surface of what happens in this book. Thymara and Alise live such sad lives. The way the Rainwilders treat Thymara is absolutely disgusting. It really is unbelievable, the amount of discrimination they subject on those who have no control over their appearance. It's just so sad. Hest is... vile, monstrous, bullying, manipulative. He makes my blood boil, and poor Alise has to live with his treatment. It's just horrendous, and it scares me that she is so trapped in her marriage. It's just unbelievable.

Leftrin is a bit of a sneaky guy, but I can't help liking him. And when he and Alise meet, well. There's a lot of things I want to happen there. He might be a little rough around the edges, but at least he knows how to treat a lady, and he gives Alise the attention she deserves. They both feel things. I just hope they act on them.

Sintara and the other dragons are such interesting characters, because they have that ingrained arrogance that all dragons have; they are superior and entitled... and yet, they're not what they should be. It's fascinating to see the internal struggle of, "I am better than you, but I must rely on you to survive." Their arrogance is completely over the top, but it's a little heartbreaking to see the dragons so helpless. Despite their attitudes, I can't help but want things to get better for them. I do feel sorry for them.

I finished this book, and bought the second, Dragon Haven, online right away, and kept thinking about this book for days! It's just amazing! And I'm loving reading novels by Hobb that I've not read previously. Reminds me of what a fantastic author she is. So excited to read the second book!
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