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Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

Dragon Haven

a review by Nalini Haynes

Dragon Haven is book two of the Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb.  I reviewed book one, Dragon Keeper, yesterday.  That may tell you all you need to know.

An expedition group of deformed dragons, society’s rejected humans and support crew on a barge set out to find the lost city of Kelsingra or at least to relocate the unwanted dragons.  Dragon Haven is their continuing epic journey to seek the city.  The daily journey is difficult with additional hazards thrown in along the way, but it is the politics and relationships within the expedition group that create both suspense and rewards for the reader.

There are three main groups within the expedition.  Dragons fight amongst themselves like bickering children with superhuman abilities, evolving throughout the journey.  The humans are split into two main groups.  First are the dragon keepers, society’s rejects, sent to support the dragons in their journey in the hope they never return home.  The second group is the support crew of the barge Tarman, expanded to include three hunters and two city folk on an adventure, Alise and Sedric.

The crew of the Tarman are a fairly stable unit as befits a long-established hierarchical group, but their normal ship-board lives are impacted by the addition of passengers as well as the close proximity of the dragons and keepers.  The keepers, as society’s rejects, are coming to terms with their histories and their new relationships with their dragons, while considering their futures.

Alise, a married gentlewoman from a trading city, struggles with her dilemma: should she follow her heart or remain faithful to a loveless marriage?  Sedric, Alise’s chaperone and husband’s lover, seeks a fortune in dragon parts to fulfill a dream.  Someone on board Tarman, probably a hunter, is a traitor who wants to kill a dragon for profit.  Repeatedly confronted by the male keepers vying for Thymara like a prize in a competition, Thymara battles for her independence and her right to choose her own path.  Several romantic relationships evolve during Dragon Haven; every one is unique and relevant to the story, creating depth, developing characters and progressing the plot.  The LGBT community is included… I want to say more, but I won’t spoil it.

Various relational threads pose danger and romance alternatively.  Some members of the expedition group want to harvest the dragons’ body parts for personal gain even if harvesting requires killing a dragon.  Some keepers dream of founding a community of their own after ostracism for their physical defects.  Whether to abide by or break traditional rules is more than a political stance: the consequences of both are inescapable.

I want to rave about the aspects of the plot and character development that excite me the most, some of which are relevant to my first review, but spoilers, sweetie!  With great restraint I finish my review here, leaving you to read the story yourself.  Robin Hobb has a rare gift for making an epic journey a riveting read, using political factions, power and romance.  This book is even more amazing as it’s Act II, in spite of which Dragon Haven doesn’t slow down.  Read this story, it’s a masterpiece.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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