Tuesday, February 23, 2010

[Lisa’s Take] Rainwilds Book 1: Dragon Keeper (Robin Hobb)

I have a backlog of half-written reviews right now, but I wanted to write a quick blurb about this one while it was fresh in my mind.

Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors. Her Farseer Trilogy was probably the series that turned me into a hardcore fantasy buff at 16, severing my ties to scifi and standard fiction. Usually she has amazing characters, interesting plots, and boy can she spread on the angst like no other.

That said, Dragon Keeper was a huge disappointment. It picks up a few years after the events of the Liveship Traders trilogy as the inhabitants of Bingtown struggle to recover from war and deal with dragons being returned to the world. It follows a small cast of characters (strong independent woman stuck in a stifling marriage, her husband’s suave secretary, a rough and uncouth captain of a river boat, and a young outcast girl trying to find her place in society) as they converge from various walks of life and end up traveling up the rainwild river with a clutch of stunted young dragons. The characters themselves are pretty strong, but unfortunately that’s not enough to offset the flaws.

First and foremost: who the hell edited this book? I gripe about poor editing a lot these days, but Dragon Keeper takes the cake. Every 40 pages some information was repeated or restated, sometimes contradicting earlier statements. It was annoying an jarring to the flow of the narrative, and a problem that would have been completely avoided with minor editing.

Secondly, while the repetition of info got me off on the wrong foot, but frankly the story itself was flimsy. Not a lot happened, and there wasn’t really any suspense or tension, outside of minor character drama. I enjoyed the story well enough, but didn’t feel any ebb or flow in the narrative. Adding to that feeling was the fact that the book didn’t have an ending – pages just stopped existing after one chapter. It could have stopped 3 chapters earlier and had the same effect. I practically experienced a sense of vertigo when I turned the page and there was nothing there. Words can’t express the sound of disgust I made.

Speaking of flimsy stories – I felt like the author leaned far too heavily on the contents of The Liveship Traders novels for a series that is supposed to stand on its own. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that a new reader would have been fairly lost, and wondering who the hell a lot of the bit-part characters were (characters that had a rich history in Liveship Traders, but drifted in and out of Dragon Keeper with no intro or explanation).

Was I happy with Book 1? Absolutely not. I did enjoy the book overall, kinda, but there was so much wrong with it that I finished it feeling angry. Will I pick up book 2? Probably. I’m a sucker for Robin Hobb, and I’ll cling to the hope that she (or her editor) will correct some of the problems in the sequel. Even if the next book is of equally poor quality, the strong characterizations will get me through it… I hope.

1 comment:

Mervi said...

There's an explanation for the abrupt ending - it was originally written as just one book but the publisher decided to split it in two. Same thing happened to Reindeer People/Wolf's Brother when she was writing as Megan Lindholm.