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).