Why the Rain Wild Chronicles? Answer: It’s a deeply engaging series and Hobb does wizardry with the cast of characters.
As a brief background, Dragon Keeper is the first of four books in the Rain Wild Chronicles. The series is a continuation from the events in Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Liveship Traders series, though with a different cast of protagonists. Chronologically, the Rain Wild Chronicles sit at the end of Hobb’s long list of published series in her ‘Realm of the Elderlings’ universe and it is most closely linked to events in the preceding Liveship Traders series.
For readers new to Robin Hobb: if this seems like an intimidating number of books to read before you start, never fear. While reading the Liveship Traders will give you a more rounded understanding of the setting, certain characters, and previous events, Hobb does a good job in grounding these world details within the Rain Wild books and even new readers will be able to enjoy the series fully.
The first book in Rain Wild Chronicles takes you on a journey of exploration up the acidic – and deadly – Rain Wild River. Unable to fly and incapable of self-sufficiency, an array of deformed dragons stuck near the Rain Wild city of Cassarick need to find a home that will support their needs. In a bargain struck with the Rain Wild council, the dragons and their keepers journey up river to find the lost city of Kelsingra; a place once home to dragons and their mysterious Elderling companions. The people who aid the dragons have an array of personal and political reasons for joining an expedition that is rife with uncertainty and danger. This is a journey of survival for the protagonists; of seeking the true self and true belonging against the background of the inhospitable Rain Wilds and the richly written political situations. These themes of belonging and discovery run throughout the entire series and are also mirrored within the plots of the novels – yet the strength to this strength to this series is not its plot, but the characters.
And what a cast of characters: girls, women, men who are explicitly gay, outcasts, and dragons. Outsiders, all of them, in one way or another. They are what I like most about Dragon Keeper and the Rain Wild Chronicles as a whole. From the smallest supporting player to the main roles, these characters are deeply complex. They each have their own goals and motivations, as well as corresponding strengths and weaknesses. What’s more, all the characters experience challenges and growth. None of them are flawless characters, especially the protagonists, and yet they are characters to whom we relate and even sympathise with. It is not easy to do that with such a sizable cast – yet Hobb does it and she does it with ease.
I especially like the dragons as Hobb has written them. Often, draconic characters are written on extreme ends of a spectrum: from inscrutable wisdom and altruism to unspeakable malice and cruelty. Instead, Hobb’s dragons are deeply self-concerned with the issues of dragons – especially with their survival as the last remnants of a species in a world that doesn’t value them as sentient beings. Their tenuous survival wars with their awareness that malformed dragons should not live and yet live they do. Unhuman, aloof, wise, and malicious at turns; these dragons are protagonists that are fully rounded characters in and of themselves. They are an utter delight to read, especially since they are central to the series.
I’m recommending this series because I return to it time and time again. The world of the Rain Wild Chronicles is rich and detailed, whilst the story is immersive and the characters arresting. Following the progression of the protagonists throughout the series makes you feel good for them because they grow so strong. With an empathetic eye, you can see parts of yourself and parts of the people you know in these characters. Diving into the world of the Rain Wild Chronicles is escapism at its finest; dark and uncomfortable at times, but always with that edge of hope that fights towards the light.
Words by Teaghan Buggy.