First of all, special thanks to Robin for sending me a copy of this book when we couldn't work things out with Harper Voyager. Much appreciated!
In my review of City of Dragons, I expressed concern regarding the fact that Hobb's publishers had once again seen fit to split her manuscript into two installments. Given that City of Dragons turned out to be a relatively short novel, it looked as though those publishers were milking Hobb's popularity by forcing her legions of fans to purchase two volumes instead of a single novel. Sadly, it turned out that I was right, what with Blood of Dragons being no doorstopper of a book. Hence, there were no reasons to actually split this manuscript in two. Oddly enough, HarperCollins also publishes Neal Stephenson, whose last two novels clocked at over 900 pages a piece in hardcover format.
Unfortunately, this proliferation of unnecessary installments took something away from both City of Dragons and Blood of Dragons. Taken together, they represent another quality read by Robin Hobb and a nice addition to the Rain Wilds canon. But as a two-volume work, they lose some of their appeal. Especially due to the time gap between the release of the two books. City of Dragons ended somewhat arbitrarily, with no resolution whatsoever. And then, being forced to wait for months to read Blood of Dragons sort of killed the momentum of the storylines and it was hard at first to get back into the tale.
Here's the blurb:
Years ago, the magnificent dragon queen Tintaglia forged a bargain with the inhabitants of the treacherous Rain Wilds. In exchange for her protection against enemy invaders, the humans promised to protect an unhatched brood of dragons. But when the dragons emerged as weak and misshapen hatchlings unable to fend for themselves, dragonkind seemed doomed to extinction. When even Tintaglia deserted the crippled young dragons, the Rain Wilders abandoned the burden of caring for the destructive and ravenous creatures. They were banished to a dangerous and grueling journey in search of their ancient dragon homeland, the lost city of Kelsingra, accompanied by a band of young and inexperienced human keepers, also deemed damaged and disposable.
Against all odds they have found the fabled city, yet myriad challenges remain. Sintara, Mercor, Heeby, Relpda, and the rest of the dragons struggle to find their wings—and their independence. Their human escorts, too, must contend with unsettling upheaval: Thymara, Tats, Rapskal, Sedric, and the others are transforming into Elderlings—true dragon companions. As old rules give way to new alliances, secret fears, and adult desires, the keepers must redefine their lives as they attempt to reawaken Kelsingra to its former glory. But gaps in the dragons' memories leave them all struggling to recover the magic that once animated the great city.
As the young Elderlings risk "memory walking" in the city's hidden history, an outside threat is growing. The Duke of Chalced has dispatched his forces to the Rain Wilds with a compelling mission: slaughter the dragons in an attempt to stave off his own demise. The tide of history is about to turn on a life-and-death battle that will ultimately decide the dragons' fate. If they win, the regal serpents will rule the world once more. And if they lose, they will vanish from the world forever.
Interestingly enough, as Blood of Dragons is essentially the second part of what was meant to be a stand-alone work, my review will more or less be identical to that of City of Dragons.
Once more, the worldbuilding was the most interesting facet of this book. We got even more insight into the lives of dragons, Elderlings and their secrets, as well as the Rain Wilds in general. Additional revelations about Kelsingra were fascinating, with each answer raising yet more questions about that distant past. Via Selden's plotline, we were offered quite a few glimpses of life at the court of Chalced, which was intriguing. The discovery of Silver seems to herald the true return of dragons to Hobb's universe, which bodes well for the future. The way Blood of Dragon is brought to a close leaves the door open for so much more. It will be quite interesting to see where Robin Hobb will take this story next.
As always, Hobb's characterization remains her strong suit. As was the case in the last few Rain Wilds books, the emancipation of women and society's acceptance of gay people continue to be themes that lie at the heart of the tale that is City of Dragons/Blood of Dragons. The same goes for the theme focusing on how individuals shunned by society strive to find their own place in the world. Tillamon's plotline, though extraneous, was a nice touch in that regard. What was at the beginning Thymara, Alise, and Sedric's tale is more spread out in terms of POVs this time around. In Chalced, it was interesting to watch the evolution of the relationship between the Duke, Selden, and Chassim. Again, Robin Hobb took this story in new and unforeseen directions.
The pace can be a bit uneven here and there, as various storylines must move forward so they can be brought together for the finale. Problem is, sometimes it feels as though too much focus is put on a particular plotline, to the detriment of another which at times can feel a bit rushed. Still, Hobb closes the show with a bang and leaves the door wide open for yet more adventures. With the dragons ready to take back their rightful place in the world, with the Elderlings in constant evolution, with the discovery of Kelsingra, and with the changing political landscape between Chalced, the Rain Wilds, and the Six Duchies, it appears that Robin Hobb still has plenty of tales to tell! Perhaps we'll even see Fitz again. . .
Here's to hoping that her publishers will stop taking advantage of the author's fans by splitting her future novels into unnecessary installments. . .