I've been meaning to read The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb for a while now, but I was somewhat put off by the lukewarm response others gave it. I finally gave it a shot yesterday though.
I will start by saying I did read it in a little over a day. So it wasn't terrible, and the plot was actually quite interesting. Several different viewpoints, but I enjoyed them all. But. (And this is a pretty big one.) There are a lot of tangential paragraphs, especially in the first third to half of the book, which despite giving mostly relevant back story, still slowed the pacing way down. I really enjoyed the plot. I did not enjoy the paragraphs of flashbacks, deep-in-thought reminiscences, or remorseful remembrances of past events. There were too many of them.
Tying in with this, the book is, in reality, just the first half of the book. I vaguely recall hearing that when it came out, but for some reason I didn't quite believe it. Trust me. This is not a book with a satisfactory ending. All the plot threads are cut off midway. I don't mean to say this is a bad thing. It sometimes happens, and when it's necessary, fine. However, I wished we had gotten a little less back story and a little more plot, and then maybe we could have gotten it all squeezed into one novel. Robin Hobb writes epic fantasy. Her books are generally pretty lengthy. I know she is capable of writing a tightly knit story that is still really long - as evidenced by the fact that she has three other trilogies written in this world under her belt, all of which I enjoyed, and all of which had three books each with solid endings. So the fact that I felt that The Dragon Keeper could have been trimmed down tells me that some of that back story was, perhaps, not entirely necessary. Or at least maybe it could have been spread out more.
That being said, I did immediately begin reading the sequel, so... the plot and characters are definitely solid, and I am quite interested to see how everything will end up.
So, in short, it was good but not great, and still worth reading if you are a fan of Robin Hobb. I love the world she created in Assassin's Apprentice and then continued through three (and now the fourth in progress) trilogies. And we finally get to see more dragons!
A couple other quick points I wanted to bring up: I hate half the men in this book. Reading about a bad marriage makes me cranky and irritated at the book for depicting something that can be so amazing as the most miserable thing in existence. At the same time, it makes me profoundly grateful that my own life does not consist of a putrid marriage and little else.
Secondly (and this is a little spoilery so stop reading if you are going to read this book and haven't yet):
Why doesn't Tintaglia just fly over the Rain Wilds continent and tell the other dragons if there's a haven at the other end? Seems easy enough for her, and there was plenty of time for her to do it before she went off to be with her mate. And it definitely would have saved everyone a lot of uncertainty...