Reading: Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

I'll begin by saying I really liked the Liveship trilogy. Hobb is a very emotive writer - Just look at Fitz Farseer. That guy was nothing but a bundle of emotions. But that was his character, he was just sensitive like that.

I have no doubt that everyone has strong emotions, but the thing about the Farseer trilogy is that it's first person. It never got wearying to wander through Fitz's feelings because it was just him, not EVERYONE. I must admit towards the end of the Fool's Errand Trilogy, it was a bit tedious to watch him bump and fumble against the Fool.

Part of the reason why Liveship was not as widely acclaimed was that it was third person. The emotions that Hobb pours into her characters becomes frustrating when you realise every person she write about is going to have a riot of feelings, thoughts that you're going to have to plunder through. You're going to meet a character whom you don't like very much, and then you're going to read a whole three chapters on why he like lilacs. For example.

I got the feeling that people didn't like Althea. Personally I didn't have a problem with her. Not my favourite character in Liveships but certainly not my least favourite. I actually really liked Kennit, beautiful bastard that he was. Completely messed up. And Malta. Watching her grow was really rewarding.

I also really liked the serpents.

It was quite distressing to me to read in Fool's Errand, that they had struggled for so far, only to emerge stunted and malformed. I liked Maulkin, She-Who-Remembers, Sesseurea. I was one of those people edging them on; Don't forget! Be strong! It was sad when She-Who-Remembers died. Very sad. Brave girl.

Destined to die? I wondered. Can't fly, can't feed... Is that living better than dying? Was it all for nothing?

And now, onto the actual Reading: Dragon Haven by Robn Hobb

I think she's lost her touch. The pacing of both these novels is absolutely horrendous. The first book was unbearably slow.

Now I don't have a problem with Alise - I like how her feelings, her shy hopes as a maiden, and the resignation of her marriage... even the emotional abuse at her husband - these are INCREDIBLY true to life. I don't know what source Alise is drawn from, but her feelings or confusion, humiliation, and low self-esteem; they all seem very personal to me. Not that I am saying anything about Hobb's personal life.

I like Sedric - although if you want to talk homosexual aristocratic man, Diana Gabaldon does a much better job at it. Sedric is nothing like John Grey. Sedric is soft, sweet and at times hilarious: "I just like things to be nice!" This is his personality in a nutcase.

I do not know, however, if we needed to dedicate a entire first novel to those two sorting out their feelings for: a) Each other; b) mutual husband/lover c) themselves.

This is how the novel is divided:

1/2 Alise, Sedric.
1/4 Thymarra or Leftrin.
1/4 Dragons.

If you ask me, half of that novel should have been about the dragons.

The thing is... none of the human characters are all that unique or interesting. They are all just caricatures. Alise is the downtrodden house wife out on a big adventure. Leftrin, the weather beaten rogue with the heart of gold. Sedric, confused and abused homosexual. Thymarra, Girl on a Road Trip.

The only thing that was special was the deformed Dragons. These are unique to Hobb's world and truly fascinating. Dragons are ancient, all knowing, powerful. But... they're not. It comes down to a chicken or the egg thing. Well, more like: who teaches the teacher? To whom does a sage turn to if he's lost?

This was the raw gem in the story that Hobb was telling. But she never saw it, and so, never polished it.

It makes my heart ache a little to think of what could have been.

The second book does a little better, but essentially it's the same. It's kind of the same problem people had with Transformers. Too many humans, not enough Robots. In this case, Dragons.

Another thing that saddened me was that Hobb was too gentle with her characters this time round. The characters I loved in Liveships, Farseer - that is; Verity, Malta, Kennit - They were born through fire. Nothing ends well. Even when it supposedly does, it's so tinged with bitterness that you wonder if it was worth it.

But these characters, things only get better. People find love. Dragons [BIG-ASSED-SPOILER]. No one dies.

You know what would have been quite interesting? Sedric lets her die. That, would be interesting. It's in keeping with his character of the soft coward. And it's harshly realistic. Of course, there should be some serious repercussions that could be explored, had this occurred in the first novel and not midway through the second.

This is what I mean. So much time spent on the things that doesn't really matter, and not enough space to explore the things that do.

I won't bother with the feminist reading of it, in the same way I don't need to point out the sky is blue.

I also feel some of the characters in these two novels were nothing but fandom wank. I have no idea why the Paragon cameo was even needed. She could have taken any other ship to the Rain Wilds and skipped a whole chunk of useless backstory. Malta appearing was alright - it makes sense that one of the Elderlings would be present to defend the dragons. No idea what was the deal with the lights though. It could have just as easily been Reyn.

Mercor is the worst offender though. I squealed slightly when he first appeared, so I do know what I'm talking about. I think that Kalos should not have spelled it out at the end, that was really off putting. Sessurea's fate is far sadder.

I am glad to get some resolution on loose ends from Liveships, but there's even more now. What of Malta and Seldan? And Tintaglia, who plays with lives and discards them as she looses interest? How terrible. Hobb likes to remind us that dragons are just like humans in many regards.

And what monsters dragons are.