Every time I read a Robin Hobb book I think there's no way I could possible become as invested as I was in her last and then, within a few hundred pages, I find I've almost forgotten that there's a 'real' world that exists outside of hers, and that I'm more invested in her characters than many of the actual people that I know.
Catching up with events in the Rain Wilds since the end of our journey with the Liveships, we find the ancient serpents, guided by Tintaglia, are now cocooning ready for the transformation into dragons. But they've spent too long in their old forms and reached the beach too hungry and too late in the year to emerge as anything but starving, stunted creatures that are soon an unwelcome burden to the humans who'd agreed to care for them. Stirred by ancestral memories of the Elderling city Kelsingra, the dragons manipulate the human's greed into a plan to transport them, along with a group of young Keepers (those most touched by the Rain Wilds, whose populace would like to be rid of such outcasts) on a quest to find the fabled city.
Newbies may find Dragon Keeper something of a slow start, but I relished the chance to really get to know our characters before their lives are irrevocably changed. Ahhh, the characters - the real gift to the reader in any Robin Hobb book and, much like with the Liveship Traders, the fantastic female characters were something I particularly revelled in. In this we have Alise, married to a man she doesn't like, let alone love; Thymara, a Rain Wilds outcast unable to shrug off the rules that have governed her world until now; and Sintara, the imperious dragon under Thymara's care who's haunted by memories of what she should have been.
I'm now desperate for Alise to launch herself into an affair with Leftrin, the barge captain who I still don't quite trust, for nothing but wonderful things to happen to Tats, and for someone to eat Hest (this one's for you, Hest):
But...I'm also very aware that Hobb's characters tend to get shat on by life, and so I'm diving straight into Dragon Haven with a little worried feeling in the pit of my belly.