Mercedes Lackey,
(DAW, 2004)

At the end of Mercedes Lackey's Joust, we saw the young former serf Vetch leaving the land of Tia for Alta, the land of his fathers. We saw him leave behind his serf identity and resume his birthname of Kiron (son of Kiron), as he headed off into an unknown future with his young dragon Avatre.

Now, in Alta, Kiron has reached the seven-ringed Alta City, where he takes his place as a dragonrider. Using all he learned in Tia, he forms his own wing of riders who have hatched their own dragons and trained them from birth, forming a bond with their beasts, rather than relying on a drug to keep them manageable.

But all is not well in Alta, and Kiron will soon find himself having to choose sides once more.

Many of Lackey's books deal with the trials of children and teenagers becoming adults. Kiron seems to be having an easier time of it than many of her other teens (Vanyel or Talia, for instance), but perhaps that's because he had such a miserable childhood.

The magic and mental powers so prevalent in Lackey's other books, but surprisingly absent from Joust, are back in Alta. Once again, Lackey makes a distinction between true magic and mental powers. One wonders if a dragonrider could ride his dragon far enough, if he'd come upon a land where white-clad riders of white horses were to be found.

Two things set this series apart from other fantasy series. The first is the refreshing, pseudo-Egyptian setting, a nice change of pace from the more familiar, pseudo-medieval European setting of most fantasy. The second is the dragons themselves. Although they are smart and highly trainable -- if raised from birth -- they are not sentient and they do not talk to their riders, but are instead more like falcons large enough to ride.

Alta is an enjoyable book, told in Lackey's usual clear style. Fans will be pleased.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 19 June 2004

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