Title: Dragon Keeper
Author: Robin Hobb
Series: The Rain Wilds Chronicles, book 1
Recommendation: A start for a solid character-driven epic, but incomplete.
Summary: After the dragon Tingalia makes a pact with Bingtown to protect them in exchange for helping a new generation of dragons be born, a number of dragons cocoon and hatch. However, they are not what real dragons should be; born deformed and malnourished they are unable to feed themselves and rely on humans to gather food for them. The situation keeps getting worse until the dragons and an entourage of humans decide to travel into the unexplored parts of Rain Wilds in search for the legendary city of Kelsingra.
Reactions: I have been a fan of Robin Hobb for a long time and started on Dragon Keeper as soon as Amazon delivered it to my door. In this book, we return to the Rain Wilds and even see some of the same characters as in The Liveship Traders. Except the focus is shifted to new heroes and the events take place at about the same time F0ol's Fate ended. There is no pre-assumed knowledge of previous trilogies.
Robin Hobb does an excellent job drawing out the world, the situation, and her characters. I was easily transported to Rain Wilds with its hardships, politics, and romances. The main character, Alise is extremely sympathetic and there are many other interesting plotlines that end up interweaving. A very interesting undercurrent to the events are letters sent between two pigeon keepers interspersed between chapters and developing another perspective on the events as well as additional characters. These little asides were very well done.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read that ended somewhat abruptly just as the action was setting into motion. From what I've read, it was originally one novel that was split into two and is going to be published in two parts. Unfortunately, that meant the book ended right in the midst of other events and that was quite unsatisfying. The only consolation is that the second volume will be published in May of 2010, so there isn't much of a wait. It may be worth getting both books at once.