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Dragon Haven: Volume Two of the Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb
Review by Mel Jacob
Eos Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061931413
Date: 01 May 2010 List Price $26.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Robin Hobb's sequel to Dragon Keeper, Dragon Haven, traces the continuing journey to locate the fabled Elderling city of Kelsingra. Challenges to the dragons, their keepers, and the humans accompanying them, escalate and threaten the survival of all. Some at least wonder if the city exists and whether they can ever reach it. The dragons suffer no such uncertainty.

The novel, like the first volume Dragon Keeper, opens with Sintara, an arrogant female dragon convinced humans are beneath her notice. Other dragons, especially Mercor and Heeby form close bonds with their keepers. Keepers hear dragons, but only when they want to be heard. Some humans do not have that ability.

The keepers, outcasts from normal society approach the dragons and the journey as an opportunity to find a new life. Greft, the strongest and oldest, has ambitions to create a new community headed by him. Thymara, a young woman, refuses to accede to his demands or recognize his leadership.

Other humans include Alise, a Trader of Bingtown from an impoverished family who married to an heir of a wealthy family, Sedric her husband's secretary, Leftrin, captain of the barge Tarman, hunters Carson and Jess, and the crew of the Tarman. Finding sufficient food proves difficult for keepers and hunters as the dragons grow and their appetites increase.

Alise found herself valued as a broodmare, but unloved. She turned to her studies of dragons and Elderlings and extracted a promise from her husband Hest to allow a journey to see the dragons. He sends along his secretary and ex-lover. She insists they accompany the dragons on their journey much to Sedric's dismay. He also fears the growing attraction between Leftrin and Alise. He desires only to return to Hest despite the man's cruelty.

Luckily, the dragons are able to catch some fish and other aquatic animals. Alise and the young keepers worry over the dragons stunted conditions, but do their best to feed them and to groom them. She and the keepers want to learn from and protect the creatures. Others have different ideas. Dragon parts are valued by the ill and the wealthy for their curative properties. Since dragons are few, such parts have great economic value.

Thymara discovers a nasty parasite on Sintara and seeks help from Leftrin. captain of the barge Tarman, to remove it. The same parasites infest the other dragons. The health of the dragons gradually improves, and while they still cannot fly, they begin to hunt for themselves, but they still need the food provided by the keepers and the hunters.

Several dragons remain weak and fail to grow like the others. They also appear mentally deficient. A few humans wait for the dragons to die so they can return to civilization. The keepers, however, have no future in returning and seek a new place for themselves where they will no longer be bound by the restrictions of their society and nature.

Plots and conspiracies add to the journey's problems. Weather and nature compound the difficult journey and fuel rivalries.

Alise, torn by her marriage bargain, her concern for the dragons, and her attraction to Leftrin, focuses on the dragons and the hope of finding the undiscovered Elderling city of Kelsingra. She, unlike Sedric, can hear and communicate with the dragons. She enjoys the rigors of the journey and works to hold her own.

An acclaimed writer, Hobb evokes a wet, marshy world where creatures including dragons, keepers, and humans struggle to survive. She does an outstanding job of providing multidimensional views of the dragons, keepers, and humans. Complex personalities and relationships emerge. Only a few characters come across as thoroughly despicable.

Touched upon, but never fully explored, is the symbiotic relationships between dragons and humans. The dragons here use people, but in different ways from Anne McCaffrey's dragons. While Dragon Haven represents the concluding volume of the Rain Wilds Chronicles, readers can only hope she provides more adventures for the dragons, keepers, and humans.

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