Audio book review: Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb, read by Saskia Butler

Rating 8.0/10

Dragon Keeper is an intriguing look at human nature and interaction.

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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…

The Liveship Traders was a brilliant trilogy of books, amongst the best that the fantasy genre has ever seen. So when author Robin Hobb decided to return to the Rain Wild River to write a stand-alone adventure the news was greeted with great joy from her legions of fans around the world. Hobb had originally intended the new work to be just one volume but her publishers thought it wiser to split it into two books, Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven.

Dragon Keeper is better suited to a female narrator and in Saskia Butler they chose well. Her youthful tone is well-matched to the two young female protagonists, Alise and Thymara, and her delivery is very entertaining and professional. The story itself is VERY character-driven; those familiar with Robin Hobb’s work will expect this but those new to her work should be aware that Robin Hobb does not write non-stop action-packed rollercoaster rides – the characters, and their deepest thought and feelings are paramount to her tales.

The Dragon Keeper audio-book is perfect for those desperate to know more of the dragons and Elderlings that feature in the Farseer, Liveship and Tawny Man books. It does in particular shine greater light on the Elderlings: who they were, how they came to be and – on this part I’m just guessing, and hoping – what became of them.

Dragon Keeper is an intriguing look at human nature and interaction that forms the introductory part of the whole that is The Rain Wild Chronicle. Dragon Haven promises to be even better…

Dragon Keeper: The Rain Wild Chronicles, Book 1
Robin Hobb
Narrator: Saskia Butler
Length: 17 hours and 3 min

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