The first chapter of the novel, “The Rain Wilds,” opens with Malta rehearsing recent events as she paddles herself, the Satrap, and Kekki down the Rain Wild River. Her passengers complain as she works, and her regard for them sours further than it already had. Their ineptitude hampers her efforts, and the three are swept past Trehaug and on down the Rain Wild River; Malta begins to despair of their situation.
Keffria frets about her younger children as she continues to assist as she can with rescue and recovery efforts in Trehaug. Jani Khuprus joins her in concern for the younger children, noting that the situation below ground is untenable and that crews have been redirected following a mandated rest. Some rescues have been effected, and help is on the way. Too, Jani notes her slim hopes that Reyn has found the Vestrit children and is guiding them out by another way. Later, as the rest proceeds, Keffria’s injuries are tended to and Jani notes commonplaces for quakes in the area. Keffria considers who she is against the possibility that her husband and children are all gone or dead, and her conversation on that point with Jani is interrupted by reports of a dragon having been sighted. The two proceed to where they hope to find Reyn and Malta.
Reyn and Selden take stock of themselves and the changed situation in the wake of the dragon’s departure. Having witnessed the emergence of the dragon, they find their perspectives on the world altered. Their situation remains dangerous, however; the chamber in which they yet remain is filling with mud, but Reyn begins to enact a plan of escape. But the instability of the chamber tells upon their efforts, even so.
The first section is what strike me most as I read the chapter again. Malta’s mental commentary about the Satrap and Kekki rings true for me; I have often thought that those ostensibly in power are more venial and less effective than might be hoped. I am also certain that similar thoughts are and have been held about me, seldom as I might be in others’ thoughts. Certainly, the Satrap’s obloquy sounds authentic, particularly in the wake of continuing violence against women and BIPOC. (Yes, I know I should read with more of an eye towards the novel’s contexts of composition and publication, but I inhabit my own context, and it’s not a happy one for a great many people who act as entitled as the Satrap, and with much less cause for it. Not that he really has much cause.) And it does seem to reinforce a character trope of which Hobb seems to be fond; I note the parallels between Cosgo and Regal, as I think all must who read both Farseer and Liveship Trader works…