54. Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb - 553 pages (8/10)
While I enjoyed the Soldier's Son trilogy, it was exciting to get back to the land of the Rain Wilds. It's still not as good as the Farseer, in my opinion, (could anything be?) but it's a good start to a two-part book.
Dragon Keeper tells the story of several main characters: Thymara, a 'deformed' child that ;should' have been left to die at birth, Alise, the unhappily married dragon scholar, Sedric, a frustrated man determined to do anything for the man he's in love with, and Leftrin, the captain of a wizardwood barge that goes up and down the river to the Rain Wilds. The Rain Wilds is set almost in colonial times--slavery is an issue, piracy, and reputation is of the utmost importance.
In the novel, the last few serpents in the world "hatch" from their cocoons to become dragons. Yet it did not go as planned, and many of them have emerged stunted and deformed--none of them can fly, and some of them have even forgotten their ancestral memories. They become an economic drain and "disposable" people in the Rain Wilds herd them to a city that may or may not exist.
It is a good start to a 2-part book, but that is also it's downfall--it does not stand on its own that well. It ends abruptly and leaves you hungering for more. If you're not a rabid Hobb fan like me, it would probably be better to wait until the second installment comes out and then read them both in quick succession. This book and Soldier's Son has felt a little rushed to me as well. They're still a cut above most fantasy out there, but I think Hobb is getting pressure to write more books more quickly, but I'd rather have fewer books that have been lingered over.