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Read the next entry in the series here.
A trio of missives coming in rapid succession note the concerns and lack thereof of Trader families in Bingtown for Alise and Sedric; they are accompanied by continued messages from the bird-keeper Erek to Detozi. They precede “Reeds,” which opens with Leftrin surveying the continues progress of the Tarman upstream as night begins to fall upon the expedition to Kelsingra. The local flora and fauna receive no small consideration, and Leftrin notes the acceptance of Alise by the liveship he commands. Leftrin’s thoughts turn to his continued affair with her before his reverie is halted by her questions about their course along the river. After some discussion, they note the presence of clearly artificial elements in their surroundings.
Discussion and investigation follow, with Alise charging ahead despite objections from Sedric and Leftrin’s concern. She finds structures not far under the surface of the water, and the dragons move to investigate further. Mercor pulls on something beneath the surface, triggering a reaction that startles Alise, and as she is pulled back aboard a boat from the Tarman, the dragons move to avail themselves of what Sedric explains they have found: guest accommodations for dragons, built by Elderlings before. Alise and Leftrin both purpose to record findings, and despite their intent, the decision is made to press ahead the next day.
Later, Thymara breaks off a budding assignation with Tats, citing concerns about pregnancy. Tats reacts poorly to the decision, for which Thymara upbraids him. They fall into an argument that is interrupted by loud upset from the dragons, Kalo raging against Greft. Greft falls into the water and is retrieved, brought aboard the Tarman, and restored to consciousness. Leftrin questions him, harshly, and learns that Greft had asked Kalo for blood and to be made into an Elderling, but had been refused vehemently. Sylvie reports that Kalo had suspected Greft of wanting to take blood to sell, which Greft admits before noting that many in the expedition had been put to that purpose to secure an alliance with Chalced. Violence erupts, and secrets come out. Greft confesses the changes working ill upon him, changing him in ways that will kill him, and Leftrin notes the extent of his complicity in the matter.
The present chapter is another place where I find myself reading with affect and the recollection of my decades-gone adolescence. The argument between Thymara and Tats is all too close to more than one I recall having in the long-ago days before I met the woman who is now my wife. I am not proud of it, that I acted such, but I doubt very much that I am alone in having done it. So much does not excuse the behavior, and I have worked to be better since. How I will address such things with my daughter–because I do not doubt that she will have the experience of similar arguments, and I can hope she will be as certain of herself as Thymara is, although I will hope she is better informed–is a matter of increasing concern for me as she gets older. But I do not think I am alone in being concerned for a growing child. I know I am not alone in worry for Ms. 8.
(Again, I must note that I do not approve of Tats’s behavior. I understand it, I sympathize with it, but I also recognize it as wrong. That the pot has been patinaed does not mean it errs to note the kettle’s hue.)
In terms of narrative structure, the present chapter seems to be something of a Freytagian (is that the word?) climax. Part of this are the positions in the book of the chapter and in the series of the book; the Rain Wilds Chronicles is a tetralogy, and the present chapter is near the end of the second book. Being nearly the middle of the overall narrative arc, the present chapter is a good place to move into climax. Moreover, the revelation of secrets and explication of tensions, bringing them to the forefront so that they must be acted upon, is, if not itself a turning point, a clear set-up for one. Things that are allowed to remain secret can be ignored, and keeping things secret can itself be a useful plot, an early act setting up for a new one. The reinforcement of a time-limit upon the characters, both in Mercor’s note about the advancing seasons and in Greft’s openness about the physical changes befalling him, also serve to provide motivating factors for continued action.
And I am led to another thought. I’ve remarked before that some of the magics at work in the Elderlings novels can be read as commentaries on social issues, even if those readings do end up breaking down later (I find it hard to accept something as a stand-in for a thing that presents itself openly in the corpus, but that may just be my own limitations at work). If the Wit can be read as queerness (for admittedly variable types of queerness), as what can the Skill be read? Or the work of the Rain Wilds and the dragons in the world? I do not have ready answers at this point, not being the scholar I once was anymore (and not having improved, really; quite the opposite from my expatriation or expectoration). But I think there is something there to consider, and I would welcome seeing how others address that topic (perhaps again; I forget too many things anymore).
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3 thoughts on “A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 348: Dragon Haven, Chapter 16”
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