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When she first intended to write a book about dragons set in the Rain Wilds, the original manuscript Robin Hobb turned in was too long to be published as a single novel. Hence, the story was split into Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven.

A while back, the author informed us that the same thing had happened, forcing her publishers to once again split the story into two halves, City of Dragons and Blood of Dragons. Problem is, given the relatively small size of City of Dragons, unless Blood of Dragons is a veritable doorstopper of a novel similar to works from Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin, and Steven Erikson, it does appear that Harper Voyager is sticking it to readers by forcing them two buy two volumes instead of one. And you know how I feel about the proliferation of unnecessary sequels to string readers along. . .

Here's the blurb:

Return to the world of the Liveships Traders and journey along the Rain Wild River in the third instalment of high adventure from the author of the internationally acclaimed Farseer trilogy.

Kelsingra awaits for those brave enough to enter…

The dragons and their keepers have discovered Kelsingra but so far only Heeby has succeeded in flying over the river to enter the fabled city. The other dragons, with their deformed wings and feeble muscles, are afraid to risk failure and humiliation.

But wondrous things await in Kelsingra, a city built for dragons and their Elderling keepers. Alise, overwhelmed by the treasures she finds there, records her finds for posterity. Once the rest of the world knows about the riches the city contains, nothing will ever be the same again.

Already, rumours of the city’s discovery have floated down the Rain Wild River and reached envious ears in Bingtown and beyond. Adventurers, pirates and fortune hunters are coming in droves to pillage what they can from the city. As is Hest Finbok, Alise’s husband…

Meanwhile, Selden Vestrit finds himself a prisoner of the ailing Duke of Chalced, who believes him to be some sort of dragon-man whose flesh and blood may work miracle cures.

Where is Tintaglia, the great sapphire-blue dragon, when all have such need of her? Has she really abandoned her beloved Selden and the fledgling dragons forever? Or will she too return to seek the wonders of Kelsingra?

As was the case with the last Rain Wilds novel, the worldbuilding was the most fascinating aspect of City of Dragons. Once again, we get more insight into the lives of dragons, Elderlings and their secrets, and the Rain Wilds in general. Revelations about Kelsingra were engrossing, giving us a few glimpses about the past lives of dragons and Elderlings.

As is usually her wont, Hobb's characterization remains her strong suit. The emancipation of women and society's acceptance of gay people are once again themes that lie at the heart of the tale, as was the one focusing on how individuals shunned by society strive to find their own place in the world. Thymara, Alise, and Sedric take center stage once more, but the storylines also focus on other characters. Leftrin's return to Cassarick brings a number of new plotlines to the fore, many of them quite surprising. Malta and Reyn Khuprus' storyline was the most unanticipated and most interesting. Selden's plotline is also quite intriguing. All in all, Robin Hobb takes this story in new and unforeseen directions.

The pace is fluid throughout, and all too quickly one reaches the end of the book. Trouble is, as this is only the first half of what was a single manuscript, there is no resolution whatsoever and the end lacks the usual Robin Hobb punch. The novel is brought to a close at the point where it probably made the most sense, but the reading experience fails to generate any satisfaction. Hence, one can't help but feel a bit disappointed by it all.

City of Dragons doesn't feel like a novel in the true sense of the word. Indeed, it feels more like a single piece in a multilayered whole. As was the case with the last two Rain Wilds installments, until we read the entire story, it's impossible to judge the inherent quality of this work on its own merit. Too much remains missing. . .

Which is too bad, for based on City of Dragons, Hobb's latest manuscript appears to be her very best work since Fool's Fate. . .

Check out Pat's Fantasy Hotlist!
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It took a long, long voyage down the River Wild before the dragons reached the ancient city of Kelsingra. But... they're still not there.

"City of Dragons: Volume Three of the Rain Wilds Chronicles" is very much a "middle" book, with Robin Hobb juggling many established plot threads without actually bringing resolution to anything. It feels sort of like the first half of a book -- there are some intriguing scenes and potentially exciting subplots, but by the end nothing much has actually happened.

The dragons and their keepers are close to Kelsingra, but it can only be reached by air -- and only one of the dragons is able to fly for any significant distance. The city itself turns out to be a wondrous place, filled with strange lingering magic and beautiful buildings -- and the new Elderling teenagers begin to discover more about themselves and their new role.

But there are other problems in the outside world. Alise's estranged husband Hest is threatened by the brutal Chaldeans, and must deliver them dragon parts or Else. Leftrin travels back to Trehaug, and reveals that there is treachery in the Council. And after a heavily pregnant Malta runs afoul of the Chaldeans, she and her husband must make a desperate trek to Kelsingra to save what is most precious to them...

Not a lot actually HAPPENS in "City of Dragons." Robin Hobb does introduce a couple new subplots into the half-dozen she's juggling around -- the Chaldean conspiracy, Malta's pregnancy, the love triangle around Thymara, the new Elderlings, Alise ditching her old life, Sintara being prissy and prideful, and the exploration of Kelsingra.

But Hobb seems to be slowly building these plot threads towards a climax, and that's what most of the subplot development is -- slow build. It's like we're in the middle book of a trilogy.

However, the lack of travel woes in "City of Dragons" allows her to flesh out the history of Kelsingra, and infuses it with an haunted, otherworldly magic that really entrances. And a couple of the subplots have a faster, more thrilling air to them, such as Malta's encounter with a pair of Chaldean murderers, Selden's imprisonment, or the ever-vile Hest's schemes and dilemmas.

Hobb also reintroduces some familiar characters -- Tintaglia the dragon and Malta the Elderling among them -- and starts integrating them into the established cast of grizzled, good-hearted sailors, outcast teens and the often-grumpy dragons. The downside of the characterizations is that I'm getting a little tired of Thymara and Tats' teen soap opera, and the question of who is hooking up with whom.

"City of Dragons: Volume Three of the Rain Wilds Chronicles" isn't a bad book, but it is a rather lightweight one, with several subplots being set up for the grand finale.
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on June 26, 2014
This is book 3 of the Rain Wilds chronicles. I was hooked on book one - adventure, dragons, what more could you want? These books are fantasy, of course, but also very "real" in my mind. Robin paints such a clear picture of the cities, towns, people and adventure that I feel that I am living it myself! I can't wait to read book 4. Be sure you read the 1st two books first!
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on March 11, 2012
I wish she would write more trilogies and fast enough so that I can read the series in succession, instead of waiting a year for the next book in the series.I am amazed at the details and so many facets of her stories, just wonder how she gets all her ideas from.I loved all her series, The Tawny Man, The Live Ship and Rain Wilds Chronicles, its so interconnected its delicious.
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on March 22, 2013
City of Dragons volume three of the rain Wild Chronicals......
Good book only disappointed that I have wait for the saga to continue with a fourth book of the series. Looking forward to reading it when it is available.
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on May 1, 2014
I really enjoyed reading this series. I could not read them fast enough. Would have kept reading if there was more books in the series. I have recommended them for my friends to read.
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on April 29, 2014
To be continued, when most of the book was filler? Pfffft! Doubt I'll bother buying this author in the future. I'll wait to get anyhting further through the library.
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on March 7, 2013
Robin Hobb's Elderling series is one of the best fantasy series out there, coming in close second to A Song of Ice and Fire. Can't wait for the next book.
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on May 1, 2015
Robin Hobb's books are always excellent and I have read most of them. I am always waiting for a new one. lol If you love fantasy you will love her work!
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on October 3, 2013
She always draws me into her stories and I hate that they have to end, and I have to wait for the next book.
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