Ultimately, I decided not to round up on this one because this book (and this series so far) just doesn’t cut as deep as previous Hobb books have for me, though it made some really good progress on that, hence the 4.5 star rating. This is basically part two in what should have been one book, but was split into two for various reasons. This provided all the fulfillment I felt lacked after finishing the first book, and this book is actually where we start to see movement on plot and character arcs.
The expedition to Kelsingra continues up the Rain Wild river, with dragons, dragon keepers, and Tarman the liveship barge and his crew keeping them company. The dragons are growing stronger and bigger, the keepers are changing (some for the better, some for the worse), and other characters are beginning to rethink their priorities. The character who goes through the biggest change (and thus the most satisfying) is Sedric, on not just one but several fronts. Several conflicts I thought might dragon on through the whole series were wrapped up here, which was pleasantly surprising.
I continue to be frustrated with Sintara, and her inability to empathize with or bond with Thymara. I hope there is progress made on that front in the next two books. It’s really stressing me out how arrogant and thoughtless she is. I hope Thymara gets something else to do soon, although I liked her putting Greft and Tats in their place, re: their sexism. The dynamics of all these people being misfits on top of everything else continues to be a rich source of conflict.
Book three in April and book four in May, and then I only have one more series left in the Elderlings universe. Hope it ends well.