A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 346: Dragon Haven, Chapter 14

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.

After a more extended passage in the ongoing exchange between bird-keepers, in which economic and marital prospects are discussed, “Divergence” begins with the weather shifting on the dragons, their keepers, and the Tarman as they proceed upriver. Leftrin voices doubts about the dragons’ memories and ruminates at length on his situation, musing on Alise and their entanglements. His management of the throng in his care receives attention, as does his recognition of building tensions among the groups and their members. And, at length, Leftrin is jolted from his reverie by the Tarman running aground, entirely unusually for the eldest liveship.

Something like this, yes.
Photo by Blaque X on Pexels.com

The keepers aboard the Tarman are summoned to assist the crew in plying poles to push the liveship off of the sandbar on which the ship has become grounded. Thymara assesses matters as she does her part, noting the changes to the keepers and crew since setting out on the expedition, not all of which are to the good. Alise also comes under attention, as do Sedric and the dragons, and Thymara notes tensions among the latter. Efforts to free the Tarman fail, however, as the liveship actively resists them.

Leftrin tries to gather information from his ship, only to be told things are “wrong” with no further detail. Efforts to free the Tarman are left off for the day, and Leftrin feels satisfaction from the ship at remaining in place.

Thymara goes out to scout for food, and Alise asks to accompany her. The two go off together, conferring as they do, and Alise becomes more than usually aware of the differences between her and the keeper. The shock of learning about Hest and the notion that Leftrin would trade in dragon parts sit ill with her as she thinks upon them, and she fumes at the doubts growing in her mind. She is surprised, however, to find solid ground in the Rain Wilds.

Leftrin retires for the evening, considering the events of the day. He mulls over Tarman‘s quirks and strange behavior, and he dreams of walking in Kelsingra with Alise, waking as she calls on his cabin in the night. She enters, and they talk together about the dream of Kelsingra they both had before falling into another assignation. Afterward, she remains in his cabin for the night, and they talk briefly together of others before he steps out to breakfast while she sleeps in. At table, Leftrin’s niece greets him, talking briefly about Alise, and Leftrin begins to consider ramifications of his actions. Over coffee, the two look ahead to the coming day together.

I have commented before, I think, on Hobb’s use of chapter-prefatory materials, noting the tendency in the Farseer and Tawny Man novels to do something akin to Asimov’s Encyclopedia Galactica entries in the early Foundation novels to provide context to and commentary on the events in the chapters they precede. I have also commented, I believe, on the ongoing exchanges among bird-keepers in the Rain Wild Chronicles novels, noting that they follow the general form of the earlier insertions. The noted enclosures, although only glossed rather than presented, offer insight into the broader goings-on of Trader society, as well as particulars of specific people not always directly seen. In so doing, they do the usual work of implying a greater world in which the events of the novel exist, lending to the “inner consistency of reality” necessary to sustaining a secondary sub-creation (to use Tolkien’s terms from “On Fairy-stories”) and to the verisimilitude Hobb has noted being at pains to produce in her work.

If I have remarked on it before, though, I find myself prompted to do so again by the more extended commentary between Erek and Detozi at the preface of the present chapter. The attention to the details of the work the two do, refining their trade and looking for means to expand their economic clout (not to be wondered at in a society that predicates itself on commerce; they are not called Traders for nothing), seems to me to deepen and enrich the overall narrative. That the personal relationship between the two is clearly growing stronger, as well, strikes my fancy. Not only does it play into some of the romance-novel tropes I’ve pointed out as being at work in the Traders-focused novels before, it resonates with me; my wife and I conducted a fair bit of our early romance through letters, and both of us feel our relationship is stronger than it otherwise would have been because of our epistolary courtship. Seeing others, even in fiction, feel the same is nice.

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