I kind of LOVE Robin Hobb. This is the second series I’ve read by her and I enjoyed it just as much as the Assassin’s Trilogy – maybe even more.
So I recently reviewed Naamah’s Trilogy and afterwards had multiple people tell me how my negative comments would have been answered if I had just read the first series she wrote. I didn’t know there was a first trilogy in that world. I didn’t know I needed to read them because they were world-building that I needed. If anything, it just make me double-down that Carey struggled with world-building.
It was only reinforced by Hobb. It wasn’t until about book 3 in this quartet that I knew for sure it was set in the same world as the first trilogy I had read. Oh, they both referenced a distant evil empire, but I didn’t remember the name of it! And I didn’t need to. There were characters from yet another series she wrote in this world, and although I now want to go read those books – I never needed them. I was able to feel 100% immersed in this story without knowing anything else. And it made the world more “real” because there was stuff happening elsewhere in the world.
So on to this exact quartet. It was ambitious from page 1 and occasionally during the first several chapters I struggled. None of the characters were entirely likable. They were cowards or childish (I mean, she was a child…) It still made sinking my teeth in a bit more challenging then some. Definitely broke that writer’s rule about starting at “THE interesting point” and then working in background later. I get it – I think Hobb absolutely was right because you needed some of this particular background before you got to the interesting stuff. You had to understand what motivates a socialite lady to abandon her comfortable life. You had to understand why a child who is truly loved would decided to abandon her family on a suicidal mission. You had to understand the hopes and dreams that had been crushed and were being sought.
Characters build over the first book, and the best part about the protagonists in Hobb’s books (all 7 I’ve read now) is how imperfect they are. They are very flawed. It creates the kind of conflict every group has – people being jealous and petty and kind at the weirdest times. Dragons too actually. They were less rounded, but they are dragons and as much as they played a key role in the story, I don’t think I would list a single one as a protagonist. The two protagonists were clearly Alise and Thymara. Maybe Sedric.
Especially for a series about dragons, I enjoyed this one. The Rain Wilds and the depth of history and world-building inspired me to go write an ancient history for one of my own stories (much to my husband’s horror since I put sticky notes all over a wall). If you like dragons. If you like a quest. If you like fantasy, Rain Wilds is definitely a set you can and should read.
I would give this a very solid 4/5 – still genre and still dragon-focused in the genre, but I think any fantasy-fan would enjoy it.