I think some of the other reviews for this have been a little unfair.
City of Dragons is the third book in Robin Hobb's Rain Wild Chronicles. According to Hobb, the first two books (Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven) were actually intended to be one book, but were split due to length. And the third and (forthcoming) fourth books were the same. City of Dragons is not a standalone book—it has no climax, virtually no resolution to its myriad storylines, and in fact where you would expect things to be wrapping up it only spawns new plot threads. In a genre where Pat Rothfuss can publish The Wise Man's Fear and we get innumerable Wheel of Time doorstops I'd question whether splitting the story was really necessary, but, regardless, my rating and review are with the understanding that I'm only looking at part of a whole.
Hobb's trademarks are all there: an immersive setting, lush prose, and deep, sympathetic characters. But this book doesn't feel as dark or as desperate as Hobb's other writing. There are threats, such as the fear that with Kelsingra known it will be overrun by treasure seekers, and the mysterious Chalcedean conspiracy. And problems, like the shortage of food and supplies, or the fact the dragons can't fly and so are completely dependent on their keepers. But none of these things feels particularly urgent or unmanageable. Disaster is not imminent. There are a few exceptions, such as one very desperate scene on the dark branches of the tree city of Cassarick (you'll know it when you read it)—but even that scene feels brief and truncated.
The result is that City of Dragons isn't focused on the dragons and keepers like the earlier volumes. It is a much broader book, showing the rippling consequences of Kelsingra's discovery and setting into motion all the forces that will no doubt clash in the finale.
But not every book needs to ratchet up suspense to unbearable levels. The book is a process of discovery, learning about the past and hoping for the possibilities of the future. Will the ancient society be restored, Elderlings and dragons living in symbiosis? And it is very much about relationships (romantic and otherwise). People are constantly forced to make choices about who to trust, who to be with, and then dealing with the consequences of those choices. Combine that with all the threads Hobb left in motion, and the final book promises to be an exciting conclusion to the series!
For those of you, like myself, that found Ghost Story a little lacking - Cold Days not only kicks the storyline up 3 notches, we finally see Harry back in his element. I can't enumerate the number of times that I was agog and aghast at the events unfurling and even now I've finished it I'm still stunned!
James Marsters IS Harry Dresden. No doubt in my mind and I hope that he continues narrating the series until its conclusion.
Thank you Jim Butcher for writing what I consider one of the best Urban Fantasy series in print at the moment.
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