is Robin Hobb's eleventh
book set in the Realms of the Elderlings
, and the first in a new story arc set immediately after the events in her Liveship Traders
trilogy, but focusing on new characters.
After hundreds of years, the last serpents have finally made their migration up the rainwilds river, and with the help of the rainwilders, and the dragon tintaglia, they make their cocoons for the winter. But the new dragons that hatch out in summer are deformed, slow-witted, and unable to fend for themselves. The rainwilders are unwilling to continue to care for the dragons, and the dragons themselves yearn after ancestral memories of an old elderling city. So a mutual decision is soon reached that the dragons should be escorted upriver in search of the city, Kelsingra.
The novel mainly follows the three main characters, Thymara, Alise and Leftrin.
Thymara is a rainwilder who was born deformed, with scales and claws, (and would have been abandoned at birth if not for her father). Thymara feels a great kinship for the dragons, and is one of the few with an innate ability to understand their speech.
Alise, is the plain and studious daughter of a Bingtown Trader, pushed into marriage for the sake of financial security, by her somewhat unaffectionate parents. Her only love in life is the study of dragons and elderlings, and her great desire is to study the newly hatched dragons in person.
Leftrin, is captain of a liveship, a barge named Tarman. Who is the only ship cabable of pushing further up the shallow acidic rainwilds river.
The novel is interspersed by a series of communications between the birdkeepers (postal service) at Bingtown and Trehaug, which tells a cute little story but nothing momentous, but sort of serves to mark out the passage of time, as the novel passes through several years of time jumping to major events in each main character's time.
The liveship traders
is my favourite of Robin Hobb's series, so I loved returning to the same world to hear the continuation of the dragons' story. And I am so eager for more details on the elderlings. But Robin Hobb is so determined to keep them mysterious, we recieve a few tantalising glimpses through Alise's study's and the dragon's remembrances, but nothing wholy new. Robin Hobb is such a tease, I guess I'm just going to have to keep reading the series to find out more.
I did love all the new characters. Thymara especially is fascinating, because she has so much in common with the new dragons because of her deformities, but I'm not sure she even sees things that way yet. She's born into such a harsh society that outcasts their deformed children, and kills the worst of them at birth. And yet she's so young and naive at first, she hasn't properly questioned this regime yet. I enjoyed seeing her conceptions of things change slightly as she talks with the older rain wilds outcasts.
Apart from the elderlings, I'm also curious about Leftrin's liveship Tarman, as he seems different to all other liveships, not just that he's a barge, but he doesn't seem to have a figurehead, just painted eyes on the front of the ship. And I'm so curious as to whether he will still prove to be alive and sentinent in the manner of the other live ships.
There was also a little 'cameo' appearance of my favourites from the liveship series, Althea and Brashen Trell, and their liveship Paragon, which I won't spoil by relating, but it was so good to see them again, like old friends!
I thought the novel progressed a little slowly, and I'm a little bit frustrated by it. but then I have a history of being frustrated with Robin Hobb's novels, no matter how much I love them. Often feeling like I'm struggling to pull more detail out of the story than Hobb is willing to write into it. But I did really like it, and I'm glad I've got the next one ready to read soon. I think this will prove to be another great series.