Far up the Rain Wild River, whose poisonous waters dissolve the wood of normal boats and cause mutations in those who live too close, the Elderling city lies in ruins. According to the old stories, the dragons of long-ago created Elderlings to serve them, but now both seem no more than legends. Then a small group of dragonkind hatches and emerges from the sea, stunted and sickly but undeniably real. By hook and by crook, a party of low-caste young adults is forced to shepherd them up the treacherous river, seeking the riches of the fabled city to which the dragons may have the key.
The four books of The Rain Wilds Chronicles follow this seemingly hopeless quest through the eyes of several of the main characters. My favorite, Alise Finbok, is a scholar trapped in a sham marriage. After years of studying the few remaining Elderling artifacts in the world, she’s uniquely qualified to follow the party of young humans and dragons up the river, and to be there for what she hopes will be the historic rediscovery of the Elderling city. Other characters include Thymara, an outcast girl with severe mutations, Tats, a former slave, and Leftrin, a barge captain. Each struggles with the weight of the past as well as the challenges and wonders of the present.
Robin Hobb is also the author of the Farseer Saga, the Tawny Man Series, and the Soldier Son Trilogy, among others. She is renowned for her ability to create fantastic fully-realized worlds and strong character-based plots. The Rain Wilds Chronicles are meticulously crafted if a little slow, and although I enjoyed them and became engaged with the characters, I would recommend them mostly to dragon-lovers and fans of her previous series. If you have not yet discovered Robin Hobb, start instead with the Farseer Saga or the Liveship Traders books, both of which have faster pacing and perhaps more suspense. Hobb has also written a number of books under another pen name, Megan Lindholm, which are worth checking out if you find you like her style.
The Rain Wilds Chronicles
City of Dragons
Blood of Dragons