Dragon Haven, by Robin Hobb [Book Review]

It was a pleasure to read Dragon Haven. As I stated in my review of the the series’ first novel, I was quite surprised by Robin Hobb’s ability to build characters and make them believable.  I was expecting a quiet, brainless read–I mean heck, it had the word Dragon in the title… It was bound to seem like every other novel I’ve ever read that’s created a dragon universe (with the possible exception of How to Train Your Dragon), right? well, not exactly. Hobb’s dragons are deformed, arrogant beasts with little respect for humans and their traditions. Their keepers, the opposite of McCaffrey’s celebrated dragonriders of Pern, are societal outcasts who escaped being exposed to the Wilds as infants. The dragons and their keepers travel up the acidic swamp river, searching for the almost-mythical city Kelsingra, where dragons and humans coexisted.

The plot is a relatively straightforward affair. The fantasy is coherent, not because of the fantastic world, or the amazing dragons, but because of the relationships Hobb explores. She manages to portray each character with remarkably strong internal coherence. She doesn’t lock ito any one perspective, but tells the story from a variety of characters’ points of view. The young Thymara, the scholar of Elderling history Alise, her troubled friend Sedric, and even the dragon Sintara.  Each has their own strong personality, their own motivations, and each of their actions and relationships seem plausible.

Many reviewers on Amazon point at this as a problem: “Nothing happens. The people just whine a lot and they don’t do anything interesting.” I find this to be an asset to her writing. I don’t WANT anyone to do anything.  I want these people to grow. And Hobb writes exactly that kind of story.

Many people seem to be put off by Hobb’s portrayal of gay characters in this series. I read one reviewer say Hobb’s book is nothing more than a “manifesto for the homosexual agenda.”   It’s a fantasy, people. If you can suspend disbelief long enough to accept the existence of dragons, you should be able to handle two men sharing a loving, committed relationship, in a culture that doesn’t bat an eye.It’s probably the most fantastic (in every sense of the word) bit of the novel; more so than acid-filled riverbeds, and magic dragon clothes: a world where gay men and lesbians are treated as equals.

In all, I loved the novel. This surprised me. I didn’t think Hobb could sustain this culture for one book, let alone two. I hope to be just as impressed in February 2012, when the third volume of the series releases to the public. Thank you, Ms. Hobb, for your well-rounded and interesting characters.

Five of Five stars.


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