The first half of a duology, this is a highly readable, if somewhat predictable, novel. Hobb is a superb fantasist, and it's the little details that make this book so delightful. Thymara and Alise are two very different women with different perspectives on the world, and the author imbues them with tenacity, intelligence and a fierce determination to make something of themselves.

After being absent for hundreds of years, dragons have returned to the Rain Wilds surrounding the ancient city of Cassarick. Unfortunately for both the dragons and the humans, there is something wrong with each of the creatures, and they require constant care by the residents of Cassarick. Tired of their obligations, the ruling council of the city recruits keepers to escort the dragons to a more suitable location up-river.

Thymara, an uneducated and outcast Rain Wilds teenager, and Alise, a wealthy merchant's wife, become part of the dragons' escort to the lost and ancient city of Kelsingra. Soon, both the women and the dragons will discover that it is often the journey -- and not the destination -- that's important. (EOS, Feb., 496 pp., $26.99)
Reviewed by: 
Natalie A. Luhrs