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Dragon Haven: Rain Wilds Chronicles #2    by Robin Hobb order for
Dragon Haven
by Robin Hobb
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Dragon Haven is the second (following Dragon Keeper) in Robin Hobb's remarkable Rain Wilds Chronicles. They are set in the same world as her extremely popular Liveship Traders and Tawny Man trilogies, and feature a fabulous quest by underdogs of both human and dragonkind.

Just as butterflies begin as caterpillars, Hobb's dragons start as sea serpents. In Dragon Keeper, Trader cities contracted with powerful dragon Tintaglia. Their part was to help sea serpents migrate up the toxic Rain Wild River to a hatching ground. The few that survived and hatched were enfeebled examples of dragonkind, unable to fly, limited in ancestral memories, and needing help even to feed. Faced with the problem of dealing with the increasingly aggressive, unpredictable and hungry beasts, the Traders hired expendable dragon keepers to accompany them on an expedition upriver to the mythical dragon haven of Kelsingra.

Riverman Leftrin and his crew on the Tarman liveship barge carry supplies and hunters for the expedition. With them also is dragon scholar Alise and her friend Sedric. Alise was manipulated into marriage to wealthy Trader Hest, unaware of his prior and continuing relationship with Sedric. She and Leftrin have fallen in love, but she feels committed to her marriage. The dragon keepers include sixteen-year-old forest girl Thymara, a skilled huntress whose black claws mark her as a mutant, and her close friend Tats. Thymara tends arrogant female Sintara, while Tats looks after Fente. They also help the sicklier dragons who do not have their own keepers.

One such is a copper dragon. As Dragon Haven opens, she is very weak, but begins to heal after Thymara discovers that all the dragons have been infested with rasp snakes. Previously, believing the copper an animal near death, Sedric had cut off scales (dragon parts are valued for their fabled healing powers) and extracted blood from her, some of which he drank. In so doing, they inadvertently bonded. Much of this episode follows Sedric's adjustment to this new relationship and his gradual realization that Relpda is an intelligent creature whose love is of much greater value than Hest's ever was. But Sedric is not the only one affected - other keepers are changed by dragon bonds and (especially) by dragon blood.

As this assorted, and often conflicted, group of humans and dragons struggle upriver, quakes and an acid tsunami strike, killing some, separating others, and taking badly needed supplies. The disaster gives someone inserted into the group to obtain dragon parts an opportunity to strike. The survivors reunite. With help from Tarman - and from a totally unexpected source - they find their way to a very real Kelsingra, which is surrounded by arable land, a treasure to Rain Wilders. Both keepers and dragons are ready to come into their own, and I can't wait to read more of these enchanting Rain Wilds Chronicles.

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