Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dragon Keeper/Haven - Robin Hobb


I write this review with a heavy heart.

I have put off writing this review for a few days now because I just didn’t know what to say or how to say it. I’m a huge Hobb fan. The Farseer trilogy remains firmly wedged on my bookshelf, keeping company with George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson. Perhaps her Farseer books set the bar for expectation too high for me.

Regardless. I read these two books, put them down, scratched my head and wondered where the Robin Hobb I love went.

Dragon Keeper/Haven aren’t bad books. The stories are immensely enjoyable, but that’s all they are to me. Well written, surface level stories that are easy to loose yourself in but lacking the depth, clean cut plot and provocative characters I enjoy from her previous books.

Maybe that’s where the problem I had with these books stems from. I picked them up expecting to be lost in another book filled with her Farseer prose, depth and color but it just didn’t happen. If I had picked these books up expecting a fun, slightly predictable story filled with a typical motley set of characters I probably would have enjoyed it.

Dragon Keeper introduces the reader to a fascinating Rain Wilds world. Hobb adds another layer of depth to her world by filling it with physically and mentally flawed dragons. She gains a gold star for that. In a genre where you can throw a rock and hit a dragon book, Hobb managed to make hers unique, flawed and thus even more interesting than they otherwise would be.

Her characters are easy to sympathize with and love but I couldn’t seem to get over the fact that I feel like I’ve read about all of them a hundred times before in numerous other books. They lacked the creativity and depth of her previous characters and even seemed lackluster when put in context with the world around them, which was shockingly well built. There was a major balance issue here, for me. On one hand the world was incredibly interesting and thought out but her characters just…lacked.

Dragon Keeper starts out amazingly slowly almost to the point of being painful while Hobb takes her time really introducing the reader to her characters, as well as all their emotional plights. Dragon Haven thankfully picks up the pace (and improves on its predecessor) turning into an adventure novel with never more than a few pages without some drama or catastrophe happening. This actually helps keep the plot moving forward and stay entertaining. If it wasn’t for the constant adventure I doubt I would have made it through these books. Even though drama and action flood the pages in both Dragon Keeper/Haven, some of the scenes still seemed needlessly long.

I know it sounds like I hated these books and I really didn’t. They just didn’t come anywhere close to the quality I know Hobb can attain. They were enjoyable, comfortably predictable with an exciting plot unraveling in an amazing world. These are great books to read to escape reality but not books you read if you want thought provoking and unique characters. It’s just too cookie-cutter for me. And that makes this review doubly hard for me to write because I really am a huge Hobb fan, even though these books missed the mark.

If people pick up these two books with nothing more than the determination to enjoy a good, character driven adventure with a fairly open ending (leaving room for further additions to this incredible world), they will probably enjoy it. It’s easy to get lost in the story. The characters are understandable; the adventures will keep your blood pounding, and there are plenty aspects here for readers to sympathize with and find interesting.

All in all, this was a sadly average, take-it-or-leave-it read in which I found myself loving the world and the idea behind these books, but mourning the loss of the Robin Hobb I grew to love in the Farseer Trilogy.

3/5 stars

P.S. I apologize for the books not being in proper order in the pictures. Blogger is playing a fast one on me and refusing to let me properly format this entry (yet again). 

12 comments:

  1. I love Robin Hobb! I have these books patiently waiting on my shelf, but I haven't gotten to them yet. I have the Soldier Son trilogy to read still, too. I'm so behind!

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  2. So reading the Farseer series first was a mistake, because I'll be judging all other Hobb against it. .. . and be dissapointed? :(

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  3. Redhead, everyone is different. You might read these books and LOVE them. As for me, yeah I judged these books against the ones I really enjoyed but that was just me.... The beauty about literature is that everyone perceives things differently, thus, what I dont like you may enjoy and that's just as valid.

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  4. I read Dragon Keeper and haven't bothered with Dragon Haven - yet. I'll probably try the Paperback when it comes out.

    Loved the first 9 books by Hobb, have been very disappointed ever since.

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  5. Mark... exactly. I don't know what happened after those first 9, but the Hobb I love is gone. :(

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  6. Thanks for the review :) I've been recommended to Hobb a few times, but I think I'll give the older books a read rather than start on these :)

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  7. These are both on my to read pile (I got signed copies for my last birthday). I'm sad to hear they're not the same as the earlier books since I too absolutely loved the first 9 books by Robin Hobb.

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  8. This is a good review, and good to know as I wondered about these books. I am also a gigantic Hobb Farseer fan as well, and I always wonder if the Rain wilds books would hold up.

    Curiosity for you? Ever read her book The Wizard Of Pigeons? Very tough to find but I hear it is great. It's under her pseudonym though I believe.

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  9. Have you read the Liveship Trilogy? Because reading these two books after reading that series made my disappointment all the worse.

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  10. Scott, I've never heard of The Wizard of Pigeons, but you have my curious so I'm going to see if I can track it down somewhere.

    Emily, I've read her liveship stuff and I enjoyed it quite a bit... I agree though, reading these two books after her previous stuff does make the disappointment harsher.

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  11. I've been putting these off for a long, long time now because I'm afraid I'll react just as you did. I loved the hell out of THE FARSEER, THE LIVESHIP TRADERS and THE TAWNY MAN, but her last trilogy was very up-and-down for me.

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  12. These books were supposed to be one quick novel, to tie up the story, in a way. Don't judge these based on her past novels.

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