Clearly, romance, mating and what makes a good pairing are important themes in this book. We see it over and over again with the keepers, with the dragons, with Sedric and Carson, with Alise and Leftrin, with Reyn and Malta and with all the other ancillary pairings that pop up in this book. And I am sort of left wondering what we're supposed to read into all of this.

In the early part of the book, much is made of the question of who is ready to have sex, or to form a relationship. Thymara doesn't want to choose between Tats and Rapskal and is not ready to have sex because she doesn't want risking pregnancy. We're told that what Davvie - the gay teenager - is having with one of the keepers is an infatuation, not real love. Whereas what Carson and Sedric have built together is real love, as is supposedly what Alise and Leftrin or Reyn and Malta share. The only reason given for this, as we don't really have more than a mention of Davvie after this and have really no idea what his relationship is like, is because he's too young to understand what a real relationship is like. (Nevermind that Davvie is stranded in the middle of nowhere for likely the rest of his life, and that the gay Keeper is probably the only other gay guy he's to ever know, if we discount Carson and Sedric. So infatuation or no, it's not like he is ever going to have that many choices.)

Here's my problem with all this. In my mind, what makes a relationship - as opposed to an infatuation - is hard work. Infatuation can lead to a relationship, if you are willing to build it. The reason most relationships started between teenagers fail is not their age, but because teenagers often lack the maturity for that relationship building. And the thing that makes Carson and Leftrin's lectures in this book (and the previous books) ring especially hollow to me is that I'm not sure we've seen any of that hard work between Carson and Sedric or Leftrin and Alise - or Reyn and Malta. These characters have been welded together by external circumstances, yes, and I suppose Carson and Sedric's relationship was tested by some of the events in Dragon Haven, but generally their relationships have progressed from the initial infatuation to everything being just marvellous all the time. This is especially true in Reyn and Malta's case - they had what was very much an infatuation in The Liveship Traders, whatever relationship building they've had occurred off page between the original trilogy and these books. With Alise and Leftrin or Carson and Sedric there are never any fights or misunderstandings, all possible threats to their emotional wellbeing come from external circumstances (except with maybe Sedric). There are fights and misunderstandings with the younger characters, and this we are supposed to understand as a sign of their immaturity. But I would say having fights and misunderstandings is inevitable, whereas Alise and Leftrin are a fantasy. It's how you react to those fights and misunderstandings that makes a relationship succeed, and so far only Tats and Thymara and Rapskal and Thymara have been so tested.

But then, I am not sure how much we are meant to agree with what Carson is saying in the first place. Forbidden love has also been a central theme of these books from the Keepers - forbidden by law to procreate - to the gay characters. Towards the end of the book RH introduces other types of relationship quandaries - between highborn and lowborn people, between humans and Elderlings - so I am not sure she has yet done exploring this issue. Also, I like the way the keepers' love troubles are connected to similar worries with the dragons. And as you've all read Blood of Dragons, you're probably shaking your head at this post and laughing at all the things I don't yet know. But I still felt like getting this post off my chest - the relationship stuff wasn't my favorite part of the novel, but it did keep me wondering where this is all going.