The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb. 553 pages
This is the first book in a trilogy, but it follows on from the previous Liveship Traders trilogy and is linked to the two Six Duchies trilogies as well, so I'm not even going to attempt to explain the backstory here.
But in fairness to Hobb, I think you could come to this book without having read anything else of hers and still have a reasonable idea of what was going on - she explains things sufficiently that while you might miss a few nuances, the general idea is clear enough.
So, as the first book in the trilogy this does its job well, setting up the plot, characters and setting and establishing sympathy for the main characters. Mostly it was more of the same stuff I'd come to expect and enjoy from Hobb and I'll be looking for part two. The only sour note was the beginning of a suspicion that Hobb may be a tad homophobic - there are two gay men in the book who are antagonists if not outright villains and this, in conjunction with an incident in an earlier book, makes me wonder. I may be doing her an injustice - she may be attempting to show how people can become warped when they have to pretend to be something they're not, for instance. Perhaps the next book will cast more light on things.