City of Dragons (Rain Wilds 3)
by Robin Hobb
Cover Artist: Jackie Morris
Review by Harriet Klausner
Harper Voyager Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061561634
Date: 07 February 2012 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The Rain Wilders and the stunted dragons have sort of completed their expedition along the deadly Rain Wild River to find the ancient Elderling city of Kelsingra. However, though the handlers and other humans along with the mostly still stunted but improving dragons can see the once great city, they cannot cross by water or air as only Heeby the Red Queen can fly over the treacherous Rain Wild River. As the expedition camps on the other bank, the beginnings of the cold harsh winter add to the dilemma faced by the travelers who struggle to stay warm, as supplies are dwindling and foraging to feed all the dragons, except Heeby, and their handlers becomes increasingly difficult.
Captain Leftrin loathes leaving behind his beloved Alise Kinncannon Finbock, but he and his Liveship Tarman must return to the Rain Wilds to pick up needed supplies and to collect what is due from the Trading Council. Meanwhile Alise plans to study the ancient city before the avaricious Traders including her abusive husband Hest arrive to strip Kelsingra of anything valuable; as their heritage means nothing to this greedy horde. In Bingtown, raging over his wife's humiliation of him, Hest fumes when he learns how much it cost him financially to let his mouse of a spouse leave. Meanwhile the dying, cruel Duke of Chalced believes he needs dragon blood and flesh to regain his youth so has operatives in the field stalking the expedition.
The third Rain Wilds Chronicles is a direct sequel to Dragon Haven, but struggles to overcome the feeling that the objective of the first book ( Dragon Keeper) was achieved in the second novel (Dragon Haven) and should have been a duology. In fairness, City of Dragons contains a prime premise that though the city is near, it remains just out of reach of the weary travelers. Once the reader accepts that it is not over until Robin Hobb's sings, the character driven story line will fascinate the audience with the vivid descriptions of Kelsingra though this is overdone and diminishes the limited action.
Once again the cast is solid; however unlike Dragon Haven, which contained a coming of age maturing of the naive female teenager Thymara, there is little character change as the good, the bad and the greedy remain the same. Other players besides those named above are somewhat featured like pregnant Malta, her husband Reyn and the great dragon Tintaglia (all from the Liveship Traders' saga). Moving slightly forward on the stunted dragon front and including a major tour of the great ancient city, fans of the Hobb mythos (see The Tawny Man saga) will enjoy this somewhat slower paced fantasy.