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.