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Originally published Saturday, February 18, 2012 at 5:01 AM

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Book review

Robin Hobb's 'City of Dragons': Trouble in the Rain Wilds

Tacoma author Robin Hobb's latest fantasy, "City of Dragons," continues her Rain Wilds chronicles, the saga of an ever-involving primitive world populated by dragons and humans living in symbiosis.

Special to The Seattle Times

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'City of Dragons'

by Robin Hobb

Harper Voyager, 334 pp., $27.99

If you had a dragon, would you worry about how to provide it with a good, protein-rich diet? Would you feel stressed when it took too long to learn to fly? The misfit teens who tend the newly hatched dragons living in Robin Hobb's "City of Dragons" have their work cut out for them — plus they're being pursued by an unscrupulous duke who believes eating their charges' flesh will cure him of a fatal illness.

Hobb (pseudonym of a Tacoma author who also writes as Megan Lindholm) bears comparison to fantasy star George R.R. Martin: her characters are believable, with even villains and monsters portrayed semi-sympathetically; her settings feature starkly mysterious ruins, bone-aching winter rainstorms, colorful crowds of scaly ghosts, and villages built on the branches of giant trees; her story lines are detailed and involving.

"City" is part of a series, the Rain Wilds Chronicles. This series is closely related to Hobb's Liveship Trilogy, three books about the same delightfully complex, ever-evolving imaginary world. Though its main society is feudal, the Rain Wilds serve as its even more primitive frontier: only living boats can navigate the region's acidic waters, and settlers' offspring exhibit nasty mutations related to the legendary "Elderlings," humans once dwelling in symbiosis with dragons in the city of the book's title. Start reading with this volume if you like; it's easy to pick up on what's happened previously. Or search out earlier books. However you approach the Rain Wilds, you'll be swept deep into them by their marvelous interplay of power, magic and beauty, and their inhabitants' appealing stubbornness and bravery.

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