A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 340: Dragon Haven, Chapter 8

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With more tidings passing between bird-keepers, these unpleasant, “Horns” begins with Alise rousing to the sounds of active dragons. The sounds of the approaching Tarman soon follow, and the reuniting groups compare notes about who has been found–and who has not. Greft again attempts to assert some measure of control, finding himself annoyed not to be lauded, and again nettled when Alise points out Thymara’s efforts to provide for the keepers.

Not the worst choice…
Image is Tats by FloorSteinz on DeviantArt, used for commentary

Leftrin, hearing Carson’s signal, exults as he rehearses findings to that point. He urges the Tarman to caution and the barge-crew to action as the ship reaches the keepers and their dragons. Greft, when he comes aboard, attempts to forestall further searching, only to be reminded that Leftrin, not Greft, is the captain of the Tarman. After Greft’s dismissal, Leftrin hastens to welcome Alise aboard, but their reunion is shadowed by concern for Sedric, Leftrin’s own guilt, and the crew’s questions about provisions.

Alise retires to her cabin and considers the likely loss of Sedric, as well as her complicity with the same. Her guilt at feeling for Leftrin emerges, as well, and she assesses herself. After, she determines to set Sedric’s possessions in order, finding among them a locket that turns out to be from Hest. Her mind shies away from possibilities.

The keepers and dragons confer, somewhat tensely, over the disposition of the fallen. The dragons assert their right to consume the corpses of their keepers, with the keepers refusing. Leftrin notes that any bodies would have to be given to the river, and the keepers agree to be given to their dragons–save Thymara, who argues against Sintara’s claim. She watches and considers her place and ill fit as rites are conducted, and she and Tats confer about relative standings and politics among the keepers. Tats echoes some of Greft’s rhetoric, occasioning upset no less than his reports of more of Greft’s decision-making. Their continued conversation is interrupted by the return of another dragon and keeper, and Thymara finds herself considering Tats closely. She kisses him suddenly, leaving him uncertain of her intent.

My comments about Greft that accompany my summary of the previous chapter…do not go far enough in the event. He’s not some image of the putative evolutionary biologist or incel, but of a cult leader of the sort depicted in Netflix series and true-crime documentaries. The manipulation of events to ensure the “protection” of a younger woman among the keepers is…chilling. Despite the usual publication disclaimer–“Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental”–it is all too easy to find real-life parallels, and ones recent to the context of composition for the novel, as well as close enough to where Hobb lives (near Seattle/Tacoma, per her website over the years). Too, Hobb is open about working from real-life inspiration, not on a person-per-character basis, but certainly with an eye toward how things are in her readers’ world (here it is). So there are enough parallels to point out.

There are more than enough.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 339: Dragon Haven, Chapter 7

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Following another part of the ongoing exchange among bird-keepers, “Rescue” opens with Thymara assessing her situation, which is described in detail. The losses the keepers have suffered begin to tell upon them, fatigue setting in, and Thymara goes out to forage for food. Her efforts yield some success, and she brings a small load back to her fellow keepers, who are themselves at work ensuring food is available for them. Thymara does have a tense exchange with some of her fellows as she goes about her business, and arguments about how to divide what provisions are available ensue. Greft attempts again to assert authority and is met with stubborn resistance by some. Distraction from the conflict is welcome, and Alise suggests asking the dragons if they know the whereabouts of their fellows as some keepers anguish over not being able to feel their dragons.

A comfort amid the chill damp.
Photo by Oussama Elhaidi on Pexels.com

Alise assesses herself and her situation as she remains among the keepers in the wake of the flood. She eats and frets about what has been lost, but she takes some comfort from conversation with Thymara. Others join in on the conversation, and the group begins to take stock of how it will proceed. Various alternatives are proposed, and the decision is set aside in favor of attending to immediate needs. More tension emerges over who will accompany Thymara as she goes out to forage again, and Alise becomes aware that more is going on among the keepers.

Elsewhere, Jess presses upon Sedric for aid in slaughtering and processing Relpda. Sedric decides to aid the dragon, and melee ensues. Sedric acquits himself ably for one with limited experience, but Jess soon gets the better of him and begins to throttle him. Relpda saves Sedric, however, eating Jess and delighting in the meal.

As Thymara stalks out to forage, she considers the romantic entanglements at work among the keepers and assesses her own feelings toward those involved. The pair return to where the keepers, rejoined by the dragons, are bivouacked for the night. Accommodations are described, and in the night, Greft approaches Thymara again. He broaches the topic of who she will take as a lover, brusquely explaining his reasoning and noting that he and Jerd are expecting. Thymara rages at the implications, but Greft presses, on citing ostensibly biological justifications for his policies as he proposes founding a new settlement where the flood has marooned them. Sintara, however, commends Thymara’s thoughts on the matter.

As happens so often, I find myself reading with current events in mind. The exchange between Greft and Thymara at the end of the chapter is…chilling in light of putative evolutionary psychologists and the incels who idolize them. It is the kind of rhetoric–coercive if not outright threatening, and presented as a “natural” inevitability not far out of line with Hobbes–that is all too frequent among execrable groups and people. It is the kind of rhetoric that points toward (young) men being owed sex, an attitude that is unfortunately common and all too often reinforced by the works of media consumed and held up as being worth consuming.

Given what else is in the chapter and what else is in Hobb’s work, and given the usual separation between authors and the narrative personæ they necessarily adopt, it would be folly to ascribe to Hobb the kind of belief Greft presents. (More indication of that incorrectness will emerge as the reread continues, as well.) But it is also the case that many who make arguments in favor of the kind of rhetoric and underlying beliefs that Greft voices refuse to recognize larger contexts; it doesn’t matter that the next sentence is “And that is wrong,” only that the present one is something they can use. They’re not alone in such things, certainly, but the fact of prevalence isn’t proof of correctness. Nor is it proof of goodness, maugre the heads of many who would say otherwise.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 338: Dragon Haven, Chapter 6

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After a missive that remarks on the flood and its effects, “Partners” opens with Sedric coming to his senses in the mouth of the dragon Relpda as she swims upon the swollen, caustic river. The two continue their mental communion, and Sedric begins to despair as he assesses their situation. Sedric prevails upon Relpda to put to shore, albeit with some difficulty on both their parts, and as they struggle to reach land, Relpda presses upon Sedric for more, effectively making him her keeper.

Source is in the image, I believe, but just to be sure, it’s from the blackandwhitemotley Tumblr feed, here, which I’ve used for commentary before

Aboard the Tarman, Leftrin gives orders to secure against the results of the flood and maintain both a vigil and a signal for survivors not yet recovered. Assessing the losses–which appear to include all the keepers and Alise–his thoughts darken, and Carson offers to assist in the search for survivors. Carson heads out to search, and Leftrin and his crew continue their efforts, Leftrin berating himself against the flood and its effects.

Sedric and Relpda continue to struggle together, Sedric realizing that the effort of preserving him is costing the dragon dearly. Sedric shunts aside thoughts of returning to Bingtown and bends his mind to how he might help his benefactor, making some headway to that end despite his overall physical ineptitude. As he does, however, he is surprised to be encountered by Jess. The two assess their improved prospects, and Jess discusses killing Relpda to sell her parts–alongside Sedric. Sedric takes some time to realize the proposal being made to him, and when he does, Sedric considers the offer, moving to pacify Relpda as Jess approaches.

The present chapter certainly makes much of pathos, emphasizing it through the burgeoning connection between Sedric and Relpda. As I reread, I find myself in mind of animals being led off to die, and the thought occurs to me that the present text might well be read as a musing on animalism or sentientism. As with many, many things, however, I am insufficiently versed in either philosophical approach to do more than recognize that they might apply; I must leave to others the work of explicating any such thing.

More and more, such is the case. I am some time away from academe at this point, and it is increasingly clear to me that I should be away from it. Even recognizing as much, however, I am called to continue such projects as this (even if with some pauses and hitches and false starts). I know there are still things for me to say about these works and about works like them, things that I can recognize and point out to others so that they can build upon what I find to learn yet more about the works and about the worlds they depict and in which they exist.

Such action, looking at what people make to better understand the made, the maker, and the world, is a goal of literary study, generally. Even though I no longer participate in that field professionally, I still think it is a worthwhile thing.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 337: Dragon Haven, Chapter 5

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Following more exchange among bird-keepers and indications of the clear concerns of some members of Alise’s and Sedric’s circles, “White Flood” opens upon Leftrin trying to kill Jess amid bad weather and the unraveling of the latter’s plans. Floodwater and debris sweep over them, and Leftrin begins to give himself up for dead. The Tarman makes shift to retrieve him, though, and he waits for rescue.

Not so gentle as this…
Pudsey Beck by Martin Rankin is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Sintara unceremoniously deposits Thymara with Alise, and the two women orient themselves amid the tumult, taking stock of their situation. The Rain Wild River is swollen in the wake of a flash flood and running a milky acidic white. The dragons, heeding Mercor, struggle for the riverbanks, Thymara urging Sintara along.

Sintara struggles, and Alise and Thymara urge her along more vocally and fully, and they join other keepers to secure their dragons against the continuing flood. The keepers confer about damages and losses, and Thymara begins to blame herself for the loss of Rapskal and his dragon, Heeby. Alise attempts to offer comfort, but more comes from other keepers who speak to the current billeting of Sintara and others. The loss of much material in the flood is noted, however, but a grim resolve to continue settles upon the keepers.

As I reread the chapter, I was put in mind of an experience more than twenty years gone, now. In the summer of 2002, I was commuting from my parents’ home to my undergraduate school, moving back in after a year in the dorms and a year in on-campus apartments. And I had been laying on the couch for a fair bit of the time I was not in class, rereading a different series of novels on the days when I was not working. My doing so attracted some commentary from my parents, to which I replied with some angry crack about things being boring otherwise.

I have said before that I have mellowed out in my old age.

The day after I made the comment, a tropical system decided to seat itself over the Hill Country and dump feet of rain upon us. Two dams upstream of my parents’ house failed, and in the time it took us to look out the back door, out the front door, and turn back to look out back, the creek rose a dozen feet. It didn’t stop there, either, flowing into the house and through it.

We all got out safely, but it was a long time getting things back in order from the flood. Not everybody in town has, even now; some houses were flatly washed away, and their foundations still stand in lots overgrown with weeds.

We had support, though, and even then, it was a hard thing. For people isolated and already living under onus, it can only be worse.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 336: Dragon Haven, Chapter 4

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Following more of the ongoing exchange among bird-keepers, “Blue Ink, Black Rain” begins with Alise sitting quietly and contemplating the insights offered by her burgeoning friendship with Bellin, a crewmate aboard the Tarman. Leftrin interrupts her as she writes, and she reports that she is recording conversations with the dragons, describing her progress with them. Leftrin inquires about her scholarly apparatus, which she describes in some self-deprecating terms, and an offhand comment leads her to a new realization about the work. When she tries to write of it, though, she realizes she is out of ink, and she makes to call on Sedric for more.

Cramming this much into a smaller space would be…difficult. And my library is reduced from what it was…
Image is mine.

Sedric stirs to consciousness, disturbed by the intrusion, and cries out. Alise, startled, explains herself, and Sedric panics at her going through his goods. He responds snappishly to her, and she stalks out, equally snappish. After, Sedric considers his situation and the continuing communion he has with the dragon Relpda. The changes the dragon’s blood have wrought on him are noted, and Carson calls on him. The tensions of his interactions with Carson are rehearsed, as are the doubts about his life with Hest that they prompt in him. Carson confers about Davvie with Sedric, the two arriving at an understanding regarding the boy and Carson urging Sedric to out himself.

In a boat together, Thymara and Rapskal proceed together in the dragons’ wake, Thymara rehearsing recent events and their fallout. The pair bring their boat ashore along with the other keepers, setting up camp for the evening, and Rapskal heads off in search of of food. After he leaves, Tats approaches Thymara, and the two confer about their situation. Noting the closeness among some of the other keepers, Thymara grows jealous, and discussion of sex among the keepers ensues. Rapskal returns amid it, making discussion uncomfortable in the detail he provides. Thymara stalks off, encountering Sedric, and the two talk together briefly before Thymara stalks off again. This time, she encounters Alise and Sintara in an argument about herself. The dragon rebukes both Alise and Thymara, and the two work to comfort one another afterward.

Leftrin comes off watch and considers his situation before he meets with Jess. Jess proposes harvesting parts from a dragon he has cultivated and sedated, and he suggests absconding with their prize together. Melee ensues.

Sintara considers Thymara and Alise briefly before becoming aware of an incoming flood. The dragons and their keepers scramble towards safety, but to no avail, and Sintara is taken by the flood. She recovers, but Thymara is swept away, and Sintara recovers her at Alise’s urging, claiming her triumphantly.

I find myself struck by the easy acceptance of same-sex attraction among the hunters that accompany the Tarman and the dragon keepers upstream. It is something at odds with my own experience; growing up in rural central Texas I was, and living in rural central Texas I am surrounded by people who do a lot of hunting and fishing. Many of them profess homophobic sentiments with varying degrees of vehemence; few of them avow acceptance of same-sex attraction or acting thereupon. Admittedly, I am not sufficiently acquainted with many people for them to confide their views in me, so there may be great differences between the performances made publicly and those made privately. And in any event, part of the nature of fantasy literature is that it is escapist; it can easily be aspirational, and the argument might be made that it both inherently is and that it ought to be so. (To be sure, that would have some interesting implications for such works as Donaldson’s. But that’s a discussion for another time and place, as well as another student than me. I have enough to do with this project without taking on others. Yet, oh! how they beckon!)

Indeed, the social commentary Hobb offers, consciously or otherwise, is striking. Perhaps it is because I am looking for such things, anymore. Many will oppose such things, calling for me and others who read with intent to “let a story be a story.” But stories are human products, and the people who make them are enmeshed in their systems of governance and culture. The stories told cannot help but be reactions to and engagements with the same–and with those that follow, as they continue to be told and written and heard and read.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 335: Dragon Haven, Chapter 3

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After another component of an exchange among bird-keepers, “First Kill” turns to the occurrence of an earthquake on the Rain Wild River as the dragons, their keepers, and the Tarman proceed upstream. Thymara considers the experience, and she notes changes among the dragons as they continue in the wake of the event, their order of travel described.

Matters are uneasy in the evening, Greft lashing out after his earlier embarrassment and Jerd joining him shortly after he stalks off into the night. Thymara funds herself musing on possibilities and the development of customs and social mores. Potentials captivate her, and she resolves not to act upon them without deliberation.

The next morning, Thymara wakes and considers her situation and that of her colleagues. Tending to her morning ablutions, she confers with Sintara and reflects upon what she has seen and understood. As she seeks food, Alise comes upon her, and the two confer, Alise admitting to doubts and asking Thymara to teach her rudimentary woodcraft. She also notes having stumbled upon Greft and Jerd’s intimacy, and abruptly shifts the topic back to fishing. Alise tries her hand at the task successfully, and the two talk of the dragons as they continue to fish.

Alise stumbles onto larger prey and subdues it while Thymara and others struggle to make the kill. Thymara is struck by Sintara’s wing and knocked into the river, from which Mercor retrieves her. She is tended, and she realizes Sintara’s total disdain for her, excusing herself quietly from the gathered dragons and keepers. Alise tracks her departure with sadness, and she listens as Mercor discusses the fish that she and Thymara secured.

After, Leftrin and Alise confer, the captain comforting the passenger. He also ensures that she has what she needs to sluice the acidic river water from herself. Sintara, for her part, stalks away and muses on human foolishness and whether or not she ought to make Thymara into an Elderling. The mental communion between the two irritates Sintara, and neither finds the other in high regard.

I appreciate that the present chapter does more to lay out the relationship between dragons and their keepers–nascent Elderlings. The contrasts among dragons’ attitudes are also worth attention, Mercor’s treatment of the keepers standing in sharp relief to Sintara’s frankly adolescent conduct. And Thymara’s rumination on the basis of social mores seems to be of a piece with the democratizing impulses at work in the later portions of the Liveship Traders novels (here and elsewhere). I note, though, that the Traders’ renegotiation of their position with respect to Jamaillia seems more an attempt by the privileged to retain their privilege than the dragon keepers’ contemplations of establishing their own heritage after having been outcasts from their own families. Power dynamics are decidedly different, and I’m sure there’s some historical parallel that escapes me as I write this. (That it does is my problem and not that of the parallel that I cannot bring to mind at the moment; that I am not informed about a thing does not mean that said thing in unworthy, despite the protestations of too many to that idea.)

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 335: Dragon Haven, Chapter 2

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Following another exchange between bird-keepers (and one of a gossipy sort), the second chapter, “Tricky Currents,” begins with Hest regarding Sedric harshly, berating him for his timidity and turning to another lover. It is a dream, however, and Sedric startles awake, considering his situation and the likelihood that what he has dreamt will come to pass.

Soon after, Alise calls on him, finding him still abed. She expresses concern about his continued convalescence, and he attempts to deflect her conversation. Alise offers to take him back downriver, which offer he refuses, citing concerns about incoming seasonal changes. Sedric notes the changes to Alise’s appearance occasioned by their upriver trip and considers that Hest may not take her back, and Alise leaves him to rest and recover. After, Sedric mulls over their situation further, rehearsing the political and economic entanglements that ensnare him and turning aside from them mentally to confer with the copper dragon, Relpda, whose blood he has tasted. The implications of his ability to do so are not lost upon him.

After leaving Sedric’s bedside, Alise repairs to the galley aboard the Tarman, considering the workings of the liveship around her and musing on her distaste for the hunter, Jess. She reports Sedric’s condition to Leftrin, and their conversation turns to the local geography. Challenges posed by what is known of the geography are discussed, and Jess interrupts with complaints about pay. Leftrin is provoked, and Jess makes an exit, leaving Alise confused.

Leftrin considers the implications of the outburst and his eagerness to retain Alise’s regard. He embraces Alise before being able to stop himself, though she seems eager for it, and he forces himself to separate from her. Taking his leave of her, he strides out on deck and confers with his ship before lapsing into thought and ruminating on his entanglements with Chalced, realizing that Jess is a Chalcedean agent. His manipulation of Greft receives attention, as do its implications. So do the implications of Leftrin’s choices regarding the Tarman and the liveship’s crew, and he confers with Swarge briefly among considerations of the same before turning to thoughts of murdering Jess.

The Tarman alerts Leftrin to an incoming earthquake, and Leftrin calls out orders to secure the craft against it. Alise, joining him, asks after the event, and Leftrin lays out likely effects with which they will have to contend, as well as how to address them. Their talk turns to the possibilities of their mission’s failure and Leftrin’s motives for taking it on. And Leftrin finds himself again considering life with Alise.

The present chapter is another expository one, spending a large portion of its pages rehearsing events from the previous novel in the series and laying out context of the milieu in which it takes place. So much is to the good, of course; one of the challenges faced by readers of novels in series is coming into the series after its beginning, and getting caught up takes some doing. (As someone who has gotten to read a lot of novels other than the first in a series, I understand this concern well.) A good recap is therefore quite desirable, and it’s good to have seen one in the present novel.

The present chapter also lays out more major conflicts to come. It has been a while since I read the present novel, I admit, so my memory of events within the pages is faded, but it seems to me Jess is not well placed to make it into the next novel, while Alise, Sedric, and Leftrin are. Whether or not I am remembering well or guessing correctly, though, will be seen as the rereading progresses.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 334: Dragon Haven, Chapter 1

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After more of the ongoing exchange among the bird-keepers of Bingtown and the Rain Wilds, the first chapter of Dragon Haven, “Poisoned,” begins with Alise watching Leftrin and conferring mentally with Sintara. Alise asks after the copper dragon, Relpda, and is informed by Mercor that she is beset by parasites and suffering; he maintains watch to ensure the integrity of dragons’ dealings. Alise allows herself to be led aside by Leftrin, considering her husband as she does, and the two confer briefly about their situation.

It’s an obvious connection…
Penny-Dragon’s Maulkin and Mercor on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Sedric considers his own situation as he confers with Carson, the latter commenting on the former’s seeming illness and moving to offer some aid. Sedric suffers aftereffects of having drunk dragon blood, and Carson quietly broaches the topic of same-sex liaisons with him, and Sedric finds himself unsettled and anxious about the hunter.

Thymara and Sylvie confer about their situation, Sylvie remarking on Greft’s willingness to set aside a number of the conventions under which the Rain Wilders had lived. Thymara finds herself considering the dragons, and Sintara approaches her with demands for care and attention. Thymara addresses the atrophy of her wings, provoking annoyance, and a parasite is discovered on the dragon. The discovery prompts examination of the other dragons, and more such parasites are found–and the wound inflicted on Relpda is also laid bare, along with several of the parasites. Efforts to purge Relpda of the beasts begin in earnest.

Thymara finds her regard for Alise shifting amid the work they do together, and she recalls her own work to rid Sintara of parasites. Sintara sends her after Greft and Jerd. As Thymara works to obey her dragon, she considers the compulsion to do so that has been laid upon her. She becomes aware of another presence in her mind and persuades it to leave her, after which she comes upon Greft and Jerd amid an assignation and a conversation about selling off parts of Relpda’s carcass to fund the foundation of their own society. Thymara considers the implications of what she sees and hears, and she flees when she is seen by the rutting pair.

Aboard the Tarman, Sedric continues to suffer from having tasted dragon blood.

Something comes to mind as I reread the chapter for this write-up: Dungeons & Dragons. That the primary example of RPGs would come up isn’t a surprise, especially given some of my recent posts (here and here), but what brings Dungeons & Dragons to mind, specifically, is the association of specific dragons’ behaviors to their phenotype. The gold dragon, Mercor, is presented as particularly wise and unusually considerate of humans, for example, while the sapphire Sintara is dismissive. Such depictions seem to line up with information about dragons presented in core rulebooks of various editions of Dungeons & Dragons. (That contemporaneous to the novel’s presumed composition would be either 3.5 or 4.)

The extent to which Hobb is or was familiar with Dungeons & Dragons is not known to me as of this writing; I’ve not done the work to look into it as yet, and it’s not certain I ever will. It may be that she was heavily involved in the game at various times; so much would account for the parallels. But even if she was not, given the amount of overlap between fantasy readership and the Dungeons & Dragons playerbase, the parallels suggest that the game has informed popular understandings. And that might well inform an interesting project to pursue.

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 333: Dragon Haven, Prologue

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Following front matter–including another list of characters–and an exchange among bird-keepers in Bingtown and Trehaug, the prologue of the second volume of the Rain Wilds Chronicles begins with Sintara musing on the activities of the humans that accompany her and the failing health of the copper dragon in their midst. Sintara notes Mercor’s vigilance and nurses her grievances against him, including the revelation of her true name. She also reflects on the circumstances that force her into prolonged company with humans. 

Looks like the one on my shelf, yeah…
Image from any number of sources, used for commentary.

The progress the dragons and their keepers have made up the Rain Wild River towards Kelsingra is noted, and Sintara considers the absence of Elderlings from the world. Noting the departures of Jerd and the mistrusted Greft, Sintara arrives at an idea she settles in to contemplate.

The present chapter does a number of things, and it does them well. For one, as explication, it functions admirably; readers are reminded or informed of the previous novel’s events in a manner that seems authentic and sensible instead of forced, and enough information is given that re/reading the previous volume in the series is not necessary to enjoy the current. (It should be noted, however, that details matter; doing the reading rewards.)

Too, as the prologues and epilogues of the Liveship Traders novels do, the prologue reminds readers that the intelligences at work are distinctly nonhuman. They may be able to communicate, but their orientation and understanding are different; that difference needs to be kept in mind as the reading proceeds.

Finally, there is no small amount of foreshadowing at work in the prologue. Major conflicts are already being suggested, and some indication of the specific nature of some of them is given. How much happens when, the continuing rereading will tell.

And I will note that I am glad to be able to put some time to getting back to this project. I’ve missed it!

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A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 332: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 17

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Following a message between bird-keepers, the final chapter of the novel, “Decisions,” begins with Leftrin glossing days of the journey upriver. His increasing infatuation with Alise receives some attention, and he notes the changes to both dragons and keepers that have occurred. To his eyes, the keepers are becoming a community, and he finds himself wondering whether he must enforce the Rain Wilds’ customs regarding romance.

For a little extra variety…
Photo by JJ Jordan on Pexels.com

Leftrin’s reverie is broken by Sedric’s approach, and his appearance is detailed. Sedric berates Leftrin for his conduct towards Alise, which accusations Leftrin denies, but Sedric’s explications of the social consequences takes him aback. Sedric presses on Leftrin to send him and Alise back downriver in haste, but their conversation is interrupted by a cry from shore, where the keeper Sylve notes the rapid decline of the copper dragon she had tended.

The other keepers attempt to comfort Sylve, and Mercor asserts the claim of the other dragons to the flesh of the soon-to-be dead copper. He urges the keepers other than Sylve to depart, and he tells Thymara Sintara’s true name. Sintara is displeased, but Mercor presses ahead.

Alise considers her situation in some distress, mulling over possibilities and her own growing infatuation with Leftrin. The paucity of her relationship with Hest contrasts with those possibilities, but she is shaken from her reverie by the tumult ashore. Setting aside Sedric’s protests, she makes to observe the proceedings, and Sedric is left to mull over his own fading possibilities. His continued attempts to take pieces of dragon for sale are noted, amid which, he tastes the dragon’s blood. Its effects begin to show upon him.

A frantic missive from Alise’s father and comments between bird-keepers about the same conclude the novel.

The romance novel tropes–at least, those of them I remember from my grandmother’s voluminous readings in the genre and the comments she made about them to me as I grew up–are out in full force in the present chapter, most notably the pull to act on forbidden loves and the distancing between love and higher social strata. Hest, as recalled by both Alise and Sedric, becomes less a stand-in for homosexuality, generally, and more an embodiment of the wealthy elite–although the associations between the two remain in place, certainly. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it, honestly; it needs more time for thought than I have been able to give it of late.

As I continue reading, though, moving into the next novel in the series, I imagine I’ll find more to say.

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