Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Interesting Words: Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

View this book on Amazon.comOne of the things I often do as I'm reading a novel or short story is keep track of words whose definitions I do not know or that I find interesting. Either way, these interesting words are ones I feel might be of use in my own writing. That, and it's good to expand one's vocabulary every once in a while.

This latest round of interesting words comes from Robin Hobb's Dragon Haven.

alacrity: Cheerful willingness; eagerness.

ameliorate: To make or become better; improve

bawd: A woman who keeps a brothel; a madam.

indolent: Disinclined to exert oneself; habitually lazy.

lunker: Something, especially a game fish, that is large for its kind.

sagacious: Having or showing keen discernment, sound judgment, and farsightedness.

treacle: Cloying speech or sentiment.

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Book Review: Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

View this book on Amazon.comI'm taking LibraryThing's 50 Book Reading Challenge for 2010. This is my 38th read of the 50.

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb concludes the story begun in Dragon Keeper, book one of the Rain Wilds Chronicles. Word is that Hobb wrote this series intending it to be a single novel, but given it's length the publisher decided to split it in half (Robin Hobb informed readers of her blog that she is, in fact, working on a third book in the series). The result is that Dragon Keeper doesn't exactly leave us hanging or wanting to rush out to buy Dragon Haven (I didn't, but that was more about the then eBook price of $14.99; I finally bought it for $9.99). But, all that aside, I still was looking forward to getting my hands on this one.

The Rain Wilds is something Hobb has delved into more and more in each successive series of hers. These two novels delve deeper still. Whereas Dragon Keeper was about stunted dragons choosing keepers for themselves and the beginning of a journey to find the lost city of Kelsingra, Dragon Haven is about the continuing angst and trials between the dragons and their keepers and the conclusion of their quest.

I'll leave it to the reader to discover if they find Kelsingra or not, but I would like to comment that Hobb, in her own way, finally explains the acidity of the Rain Wilds River, something that has played into many of her novels and defines the people who choose to make their homes at its banks.

In terms of writing, it's hard to complain or find fault with Hobb. She's a wonderfully competent author who has a knack for developing rich characters dwelling amongst a richer world. As is mentioned often about Hobb's writing, pacing is an issue. If you're looking for the latest Abercrombie-type novel, go elsewhere. Hobb leads the reader on a slow walk down a meandering path, tantalizing with hints of something more and just enough contention and challenges that when presented, you tend to want to see how the characters involved make out. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don't. The conclusion of the Farseer Trilogy still stops me in mid-thought sometimes and sends me into fits of melancholy. It's powerful stuff.

If I were to say anything bad about Dragon Haven it's that we never get the level of tragedy I was expecting out of Hobb. It just seemed to me there were multiple points where certain characters could have come to serious harm or made to sacrifice, but those opportunities were passed over.

While Dragon Haven is a complete tale, I couldn't help but feel that it is only a stepping stone leading into Hobb's next series. There's a lot of setup here, with some aspects of the Rain Wilds and dragons in general finally explained, but we're left looking into a horizon that is not darkening, but becoming brighter and wider. In any case, Dragon Haven will be going on my Favorite Reads of 2010 list.

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Interesting Words: Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

View this book on Amazon.comOne of the things I often do as I'm reading a novel or short story is keep track of words whose definitions I do not know or that I find interesting. Either way, these interesting words are ones I feel might be of use in my own writing. That, and it's good to expand one's vocabulary every once in a while.

These interesting words were found in Robin Hobb's Dragon Keeper.

aplomb: great coolness and composure under strain

chit: an official note giving information or showing a sum of money that is owed or has been paid

contralto: the lowest female singing voice

damask: a fabric of linen or cotton or silk or wool with a reversible pattern woven into it

deckhand: a member of a ship's crew who performs manual labor

dilettante: an amateur who engages in an activity without serious intentions and who pretends to have knowledge

enervate: weaken mentally or morally

fid: A pin of hard wood, tapering to a point, used to open the strands of a rope in splicing

hoyden: a girl who behaves in a boyish manner

humidor: an airtight container for keeping cigars or tobacco moist.

pedagogy: the profession of a teacher

peignoir: a loose dressing gown for women

penurious: excessively unwilling to spend

physicking: a purging medicine; stimulates evacuation of the bowels

slurry: a suspension of insoluble particles (as plaster of paris or lime or clay etc.) usually in water

somnolence: a very sleepy state

stippling: produce a mottled effect

supine: lying face upward

windlass: lifting device consisting of a horizontal cylinder turned by a crank on which a cable or rope winds

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Book Review: Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

View this book on Amazon.comI'm taking LibraryThing's 50 Book Reading Challenge for 2010. This is my 20th read of the 50.

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb is the first volume in the Rain Wilds Chronicles, a two part series that takes place after events told in the Liveship Traders books. Dragon Keeper was (briefly) a free giveaway in Kindle format from Amazon. That's how I obtained my copy.

I've mostly had good luck with Hobb. I really enjoyed both the Farseer and Soldier Son trilogies, but had some issues with the first novel in the Liveship Traders series. Ultimately, I never finished that series, though after having read Dragon Keeper I might be willing to give it another try. That being said, while Dragon Keeper is in some ways a continuation of the ongoing saga told in the Liveship books, it is the start of an entirely new story. There are some familiar names and faces here, but they're merely mentioned or, in the case of Althea and Brashen, appear as secondary characters.

The overarching story of the Rain Wilds Chronicles is that of a host of dragons who emerge from their cocoons underdeveloped. While the dragons of Hobb's world inherit the memories of their ancestors, these dragons are physically handicapped: their wings are stunted, their legs too short, their bodies undernourished. Forced to rely on their human tenders and dwell in a place where they are increasingly unwelcome, they decide as a group to travel upriver to seek out an ancient Elderling city that they all remember from memories past. Though they know the journey will be fraught with danger, they decide it is better to die trying than to remain where they are.

Because the dragons made a bargain with the folk of the River Wilds, they do not venture out alone. With them go the dragon keepers, malcontents and misfits chosen by the city council because they, like the dragons, are no longer wanted. The principal character amongst them is Thymara, a sixteen year old who, though born "marked" by the Rain Wild, was spared death by exposure by her father. The other keepers are a varied ensemble, with some who have definite designs of their own that go far beyond merely assisting and tending their dragons.

Also, there is Alise, a woman obsessed with dragon lore. She has amassed the single, largest repository of dragon knowledge and is given the chance to add to it when the opportunity arises for her to visit the dragons. Little does she know that they are just planning their expedition, and so, as one might expect, she winds up joining them.

Rounding out the cast is Leftrin, a likeable riverboat captain, and Sedric, Alise's oldest friend who wants nothing but the best for Alise, but who has certain nefarious motivations of his own.

I liked Dragon Keeper. While the cast of characters somewhat resembled that of Ship of Magic, where I found the majority of those characters unlikeable, these possess much greater depth and, for me, were easier to enjoy. While the novel begins with multiple storylines, it's easy to see that soon they all will coalesce into the journey the dragons intend to undertake. As a reader, I never felt I was getting bogged down with too much back story or being sent off on tangents that were either dead-ends or had nothing to do with the main plot. Everything fits here and Hobb keeps things moving along smoothly. She tells just enough to give you the characters' back-stories but not so much you feel compelled to start skipping pages.

That being said, the only thing holding me back from purchasing the next book in the series, Dragon Haven, is the Kindle price. It's not available in paperback yet, and I've never been one for hardcovers. It'd be nice if publishers would give it up already and just sell the electronic versions at a reasonable price, but that's not to be. Not right now, anyway. The Kindle edition of Dragon Haven sells for $14.99. Fortunately, my reading pile is never small, and so I can wait for it to come down in price. Take that, Big 6 Publishers.

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Robin Hobb's Dragon Keeper not free after all

I wrote a recent post about one could download Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb for the Kindle for free. While the offer was valid at the time of that post (I know it was valid b/c I downloaded the eBook myself), such is no longer the case if you live in the United States.

As of right now, you'll get the following message box in the upper right of the product page:

 

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Well, that sucks.

In fact, if you want to purchase the Kindle edition of Dragon Keeper without the bonus material, it'll cost you $12.99:

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Ouch. That's too much for an eBook, IMO (I support the boycott on eBooks costing more than $9.99).

Now, since I'd already downloaded the eBook to my Kindle and given that Amazon has removed eBooks from customers' Kindles without their consent in the past, I was curious to see if Dragon Keeper was still there. So far, it is.

I guess that saying about "striking while the iron is hot" holds true, even for free Kindle offers. Hope you got it while you could.