This is the fourth series overall set in Robin Hobb’s Elderlings world, and the second that takes place in the Rain Wilds, with the liveships and dragons, after The Liveship Traders. I continue to be very, very glad I gave her another chance as an author. I loved revisiting this world and seeing characters from Liveship again, but here we get an all-new set of characters to follow for four books, including a dragon POV! Please do not read further if you haven’t read The Liveship Traders yet, as there will be spoilers for that series. Unless you don’t care about spoilers, in which case, go for it.
After the events of The Liveship Traders, in which dragons came back to the world, and The Tawny Man trilogy, in which the dragon Tintaglia received a mate, a dragon who had been buried in the ice slumbering for perhaps thousands of years, the dragons in this book are not in for sunshine and rainbows. Because the serpents were so old when they cocooned, and because it was so late in the year, all of the surviving dragons that hatch (and there aren’t many) are essentially disabled, some physically, some mentally, some both. The people of the Rain Wilds, due to their bargain with Tintaglia, must care for these dragons as they can’t care for themselves. The situation soon proves itself untenable, especially since Tintaglia seems to have abandoned the hatchlings for the company of her new mate. Soon a plan is struck to journey up the Rain Wilds river in search of a lost Elderling city that provides hope for both human and dragon. Along the way, the crotchety, arrogant dragons clash with their carers, who in most cases were only sent on the mission because they are those most touched by the Rain Wilds, and thus undesirable. So basically this is a story about outcasts caring for misfits, and what happens after. I very much think it could be lovely.
Four stars is sort of a tentative rating, because this is really part one of two, and I have yet to read two. Hobb initially intended books one and two of this series to be one book (this happened for three and four as well). What was here, I liked (though I very much wish I had access to the British narrator, Saskia Butler, instead of the American one, Anne Flosnik) but it is undeniably not a full story arc, and I left the book feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Hobb continues to excel at creating characters who are very hateable, and at creating long, satisfying narrative arcs for her characters. Since this book stops midway through the first story arc, I feel like I can’t rate it properly, since I don’t know what exactly it’s building up to. I’ve got book two, Dragon Haven, set for the first week of March, so it won’t be too long of a wait, and then I can properly judge this one as well.