4 out of 5
The first book in The Rain Wild Chronicles brings us back to the world Robin Hobb first created in her Liveship Traders series. This time the reader is in for a completely different adventure. The traders have found out that the wood they have been using for their liveships actually comes from dragon cocoons. They have learned of the life cycle of dragons and managed to find a grouping of sea serpents that should cocoon and develop into dragons only the results are not spectacular. An odd collection of characters are rounded up to take the dragons back up the river in an attempt to find the original home of the dragons and the humans who lived with them. The story focus’s on Letrin, the captain of a live barge, Alise, the wealthy but unhappy dragon scholar, and Thymara, a rain forest child with physical attributes that should have resulted in her being left for dead as a child. Each of the actual dragon keepers, like Thymara, have such disabilities or are shunned for other reasons. Other members of the group are hunters or crew members. The story is told from various view points which works well for this type of group adventure. The reader needs to see events from all sides to understand what is happening. An important theme is the treatment of women. Alise, as a trader’s daughter signs a legal marriage document that sets out exactly what is expected of each partner. This contract ensures her certain rights and responsibilities. Thymara, on the other hand, is not allowed marriage or sex on the chance she may give birth to a child as deformed as she is. This becomes part of the story line as the group gets farther and farther from society. The book is well written and the characters develop naturally. The only problem I had was there are parts where it tends to drag a little but pushing through those parts is well worth it.