Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Midwinter 2013. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.
Warning: As this is book four in a series, the review necessarily contains spoilers for previous books.
“Soon or later, there is always war with Chalced.”
Although they have finally reached the lost city of Kelsingra, the dragons on their keepers still face further challenges, perhaps even greater than their struggle up the Rain Wild River. Many of the dragons still cannot fly, a skill that will be necessary for all of them to reach Kelsingra proper, where the Silver wells await. The relationships between the keepers and their dragons, and their relationships with one another grow and change day by day as they face the realization that they will be establishing a new society on the foundations of an ancient one. The changes mean adjustments for them all, as the keeper struggle to bear the burden of their Elderling inheritance, and the dragons try to live up to their regal ancestors. Despite the difficulties they face simply among themselves, they must also face threats from without as the Duke of Chalced’s quest for dragon-flesh grows more feverish as death approaches. Even the fully fledged dragons, Tintaglia and Icefyre, are not safe from his ravenous appetite, and nor are the Elderling “dragon-men” abroad in the world, such as Selden Vestrit. In order to face the threat posed by the Duke of Chalced and successfully re-establish the dragon lineage, they must gain access to the knowledge held within the memory stones of Kelsingra, and find the wells Silver that will allow the dragons and their Elderlings to reach their full potential before they lose any more of their number.
In book four of the series, Hobb must bring together multiple storylines of characters who have been scattered across her world. Despite having ample space to do so, the pacing lags a bit, and some threads were crammed in at the end. As always, Hobb also follows a secondary but related story line in the letters that head each chapter, as the bird keeper’s guild struggles to maintain service in the midst of spying and treachery. In addition to providing an interesting subplot, these letters also supply information that ties together the happenings in the wide-flung and disparate settings ranging from Kelsingra to Bingtown to Chalced. Blood of Dragons is heavily character-driven, with much of the book concerned with the complex interpersonal relationships between dragons and Elderlings, Elderlings and humans, and within the groups that will make up the new society that is just beginning to establish itself in its own right. Certain characters receive more attention in this instalment than others; Alise and Sedric have largely resolved their romantic situations, but as their stories move aside, the triangle playing out between Tats, Thymara and Rapskal gets more page-time. As a result of the focus on characters, the conflict with the Duke of Chalced, which could have been central to the plot, is delayed until the very end, and dispatched hastily, almost as an addendum. While character-driven novels are not a bad thing, the epic nature of the quest at the centre of this story calls for a greater balance between character and action. But although the story concludes somewhat hurriedly, there is a greater sense that Hobb’s richly imagined world goes on beyond the pages, and the tale makes a significant contribution to the mythology of the Realm of the Elderlings.
Already read and enjoyed Blood of Dragons? I recommend The Silvered by Tanya Huff.