Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb (The Rain Wild Chronicles: Book 1)

I have found it very sensible to always listen when my editors speak. In a past review I happened to mention my souring love for Robin Hobb, which subsequently cued the recommendation-instincts of my editor here at FBR, Lee, who mentioned in an email that I should give Robin Hobb another shot; like a lover once spurned given a second chance at redemption.

I’m glad I listened.

I received ‘The Dragon Keeper’ by Robin Hobb back in 2009, and got halfway through the book before I put it down in a huff and refused to ever read anything Hobb would ever write. I was enamoured with the whole of her ‘Realm of the Elderlings’ work, and even enjoyed ‘Soldier Son’. But for some reason, The Dragon Keeper ticked me off.

I say ‘for some reason’ because, sitting here at the beginning of 2013, I’m quite truly lost as to what it was that put me off the book.

There are reviews across the internet that decry her slow pacing and lousy characters, and both of these may have been the cause of my righteous indignation: in all honesty, I do believe that the pacing of this book is a little too slow to be comfortable, and the characters verging on two-dimensional.

But considering that it took me maybe six hours to finally finish the book which had been sitting on my shelf with a sticky note reminding me of its failure, I can’t quite figure what shook me so hard as to give up entirely on the author.

The Dragon Keeper is by no means in the same league as Hobb’s ‘Liveship Traders’ trilogy, nor even in either ‘The Farseer’ and ‘Tawny Man’ trilogies. But it is an enjoyable read. The dragons are interesting in their malformed and retarded states and their keepers even more so. The world of the Rain Wilds is fascinating and the promise of returning to Kelsingra is tantalising.

So, here I publically announce my complete reversal of my unworthy and unjustified dismissal of Robin Hobb’s writing and sincerely beg her forgiveness for any wrongs done. I’ll be picking up ‘Dragon Haven’ within moments, and am looking forward to returning to the world of the Rain Wild Chronicles.
Joshua S Hill, 6.5/10 (updated review)


Rarely will I not make it through a book. I can count on one hand the amount of books that have failed to see me make it to the last page. Even if I don’t like the book, I’ll try and finish it in case I miss something. And really, it has to be a poor book to put me off from being able to push through. Think about it, I made it through Brisingr!

But I have a method as well. Sometimes a book might not capture me, and I’ll put a bookmark in it and put it back on the shelf. If it goes too long I’ll swap out the bookmark and put in a sticky note. If, after all that time, I really don’t want to go back to it, then I take out the sticky note.

I took the sticky note out of Robin Hobb’s The Dragon Keeper recently.

And, putting aside the fact that I don’t like not finishing a book, it was by one of my favourite authors! One need only spend a little time at the site to realize how much we love Robin Hobb. Her Liveship Traders series ranks as one of our best ever. So to find this book so truly disappointing was, truly, disappointing.

Hobb returns us to the Rainwilds, a location from the Liveship Traders series we didn’t spend a whole heap of time in. We are introduced about a year after the Traders finished, and the dragons are about to be hatching. But nothing is the same anymore. The characters are two-dimensional and boring and the story is half-hearted at best, as if Hobb had realized how much money she had made off the series and was forcing herself to return.

I made it about halfway through the book before it went back into the bookshelf. I had held so much hope for the series, which in and of itself might be a problem and why I didn’t enjoy it, and was so disappointed with the flat and uninteresting story being told.

I’m waiting for other readers to let me know what they think. Whether I have to push on, whether I am being too harsh. But for right now, I honestly cannot recommend The Dragon Keeper to anyone.
Joshua S Hill, 3/10 (original review)


An intriguing, albeit slower paced, return to the Realm of the Elderlings in this much-anticipated new fantasy from one of our greatest fantasy authors. 

Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River, the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and impenetrable forest, it is a hard place for any to survive. People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other aberrations, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the return of dragons: it is as if they symbolise the return of hope to their war-torn world. Leftrin, captain of the liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching; as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life's work to study all there is to know of dragons. But the creatures which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly; some seem witless and bestial. Soon, they become a danger and a burden to the Rain Wilders: something must be done. The dragons claim an ancestral memory of a fabled Elderling city far upriver: perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But Kelsingra appears on no maps and they cannot get there on their own: a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them. To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job: their charges are vicious and unpredictable, and there are many unknown perils on the journey to a city which may not even exist!

Robin Hobb is of course the author behind the three trilogies that make up the incredibly well-written and compellingly-readable Realm of the Elderlings series. Dragon Keeper sees a welcome return to the acid waters of the Rain Wilds in a brand new series, from one of the most gifted authors within the genre.

Hobb is a skilled wordsmith and readers will once again experience a wonderful array of imaginative and vivid descriptions of people and places. Readers of preceding books in the series, and those in particular that were intrigued by the Elderlings, their cities and their relationships with dragons, will be delighted with Dragon Keeper as Hobb slowly unveils their lore and legend, thereby removing the veil of mystery that surrounds these fascinating half-human, half-dragon people. The book also further explains how dragons come into being and the whole sea serpent to dragon development.

However, Dragon Keeper may not be for all. Fans of Hobb may well find lacks the instant hook of her earlier works may find the pacing problematic as character development is everything in this first instalment.

Dragon Keeper is a book that will reward the patient, perfect for those looking for thoughtful, unrushed fantasy that is very strong on character. It is written at a slower pace than the preceding trilogies but, like Thymara, many will be fascinated by the return of dragons.
Floresiensis, 9/10

9/10 A book that will reward the patient

Reviews by and Floresiensis

6 positive reader review(s) for Dragon Keeper

Dragon Keeper reader reviews

from UK

Just about to start on the 4th in this series. having been a great fan of the previous trilogies I was very much looking forward to this . I have to say I am rather disappointed. the pace is slow, there is too much repetition of "facts" that having read 9 books of this world already we are more than well aware of, too much Brokeback Mountain for my taste to be honest. after many hundreds of pages I don't feel like I have had much of a journey.
10/10 ()

from Vancouver

I have been a Robin Hobb fan for many years, the nine books that make up the Elderling series are, in my opinion, amongst the best that the fantasy genre has to offer. When I learned that she had returned to the realm I was plunged into a state of excitement and now that I have read the new book, Dragon Keeper, I would just like to share my thoughts. I found the book to read more like a brand new book in a series, rather than the tenth, as Hobb creates a whole new cast of characters, all of which she introduces in her own good time. Dragon Keeper's stately pace may not be for all but in circumstances like this I just place myself in the author's proven hands and allow her to unveil the history of the Rain Wilds, of Elderlings and dragons as she sees fit. This is a book to savour, and different from the frenetic, violent and simplified fantasy that so many writers produce. So just sit back, read and enjoy a trip up the Rain Wilds.
10/10 ()

from England

By far one of the best books I've ever read. I love Sedric and Relpda.
10/10 ()

from United States

I am actually almost done with the second book in the series and so far I LOVE this book. Yes I can see where some guys would be turned off by some of the relationships but it is such a fresh approach in fantasy literature that I can't help but love it.
10/10 ()

from Leighton Buzzard

I though the review of this book was a little bit harsh. Like the reviewer, I'm a massive fan of Hobb. The first fantasy books I read other than LOTR were the Farseer books, and Hobb is the reason I have continued down the fantasy road, so when I picked this up, expectations were understandably high... ...and I was, in all honesty, just a little bit disappointed. There's an awful lot to like here for fans of the Liveship Traders, Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies. However, there's also quite a bit to dislike - the whole premise feels slightly rushed, and faintly absurd, as though Hobb had one eye on the royalty cheques whilst writing and needed to pay the mortgage. With that said, I'm reserving judgement on this one until I've read all three for one reason: I thought The Liveship Traders was rubbish when I first read it. I tried three times, and couldn't get past the first few chapters. But when I got into it, boy did I enjoy it! So, I'm hoping Hobb pulls her finger out in parts 2 and 3, tightens the plot up a little, and gives us a fitting end to the saga of the Realm of the Elderlings.
6/10 ()

from Toronto Canada

I can't believe anyone who says they didn't get through this book or who can't recommend it. I admittedly found it slow getting into it, but once it picked up pace, I couldn't wait to read the next one. Hopefully there will be another after Dragon Haven. I thought it was very richly written and full of surprises.
8/10 ()

from Middlesbro

Loved this book and am reading the next one straight after. I can understand why some of the relationships in the books may put off some (particularly male) readers, but personally I found this to be a wonderfully fresh, honest approach to the diversity of humanity. Can't wait for the next one in the series!!!
10/10 ()

from Nottingham

I bought Dragon Keeper and Dragon's Haven at the same time... and by the time I had finished Dragon Keeper I was hooked... and promptly read Dragon's Haven straight after it! It was so good that I am now waiting in anticipation for the next book and will be one of the first to buy and read it as Hobb has me enthralled by the characters and wanting to know what happens to them next!
10/10 ()

9.2/10 from 9 reviews

All Robin Hobb Reviews