Dragon Haven - Robin Hobb Also posted at The BiblioSanctum.

The story of The Rain Wild Chronicles continues with this sequel to Dragon Keeper. Maybe the plot's simply picking up, or perhaps it has to do with the characters finally starting to grow on me, but somewhere between the pages of this book, I realized I've actually become quite smitten with this series.

As I recall, the end of the first book came rather abruptly, so it's not a surprise that this one picked right up from where it left off. The dragons and their group of keepers and supporters continue to travel along the river in the hopes of finding the legendary Elderling city of Kelsingra, and we return to familiar characters such as Thymara, Alise, Sedric, Leftrin and the blue dragon Sintara. The book follows the narrative of these characters, chronicling their incredible journey of adventure and peril -- complete with the inevitable pitfalls, unexpected romances and bitter betrayals.

Since the background and all the introductions were covered in the first book, I feel like we're finally able to get into the meatier parts of the story. I also mentioned before that I wasn't too impressed with any of the characters when I first started this series, but while most of them were kind bland on their own, the dynamics are getting more interesting now that they're all starting to interact with each other.

The dragon keepers, mostly made up of heavily marked Rain Wilders who were born disfigured with features like scales and claws, were considered outcasts back where they came from. A few of them have their own ideas of whether or not the status quo should change or remain the same once they reach Kelsingra and establish their own society, which not surprisingly leads to a fair bit of conflict. Also, separate a group of people from civilization and force them to eat, sleep, hunt and survive together for months at a time, and sooner or later you get the kind of relationship drama worthy of prime time reality TV.

I still have issues with some of the pacing, though. For the most part, I love Robin Hobbs' writing, but once in the while, I notice she'll have the tendency to fill the pages with swaths of lengthy exposition, going over events and plot developments that the reader is already fully aware of. This is occasionally the case with character speech and internal dialogue too. There was one particularly harrowing scene involving Sedric, Jess, a copper dragon and a killer flood where I had to wonder how anyone could waste so much time just standing around monologuing.

I also noticed the way a situation would be deliberately dragged out, by making certain characters like Alise and Sedric uncharacteristically clueless and obtuse. It was established in Dragon Keeper that Alise's husband, Hest, is actually secretly Sedric's lover. By the end of that book, it seemed like everyone has figured it out except for Alise, who would normally be such an astute, observant woman. Likewise, Sedric seems oblivious to the fact that his sexual orientation is known to one of the hunters in the crew, is also oblivious to the fact that the hunter prefers men and is attracted to him as well. It's the sort of plot device I would expect from a cornball romance novel, but I do have to give my kudos to Hobbs for her meaningful way of handling the topic of hidden homosexuality.

Definitely looking forward to the next book, as this series is turning out to be a rather exciting tale of adventure-fantasy.