Hobb (Renegade’s Magic, 2008, etc.) delivers the first of two dragon-filled fantasies, set in the same world as her popular Liveship Traders trilogy.
This inaugural title deals mainly with the swirl of events leading up to a quest to find the legendary city of Kelsingra by a group of sickly, deformed, sentient dragons and their human keepers. A host of human and dragon characters are introduced, but two well-drawn women take center stage: unhappily married Trader Alise, a scholar of dragons; and teenage Thymara, a dragon-keeper who is herself deformed by scaly skin and claws. Hobb does an admirable job of creating a complex and engaging medieval fantasy world, greatly expanding on the Rain Wilds setting she introduced in previous books. Characters from past novels make cameos, but the author takes care to keep her new tale self-contained. She handles with originality and subtlety such traditional fantasy elements as dragons and magical items. The only complaint readers may have is that, after hundreds of pages of buildup, the novel ends abruptly before the main quest really gets going.
A nicely imagined fantasy setting that will engage readers and raise anticipation for the second installment.