cover image ALTA


Mercedes Lackey, . . DAW, $24.95 (402pp) ISBN 978-0-7564-0216-7

As in its predecessor Joust (2003), a clear, uncluttered style marks Lackey's latest light entertainment about wizards and dragons and social struggle. Vetch (aka Kiron), the hero of Joust , has escaped from the oppressive dragon riders of Tia with Avatre, the crimson female dragon he has secretly raised. In his native Alta, the former serf finds his fate interconnected with the destinies of Orest, youngest son of the Lord Ya-tiren, and the girl Aket-ten, a "Winged One" in training capable of speaking with animals. Vetch begins a new career teaching other Altan males how to bond with dragons from the egg. Vivid depictions of mythical creatures and a pastoral, casual approach to magic enliven such emotionally charged themes as cultural displacement, alienation and search for self. The crises of individual characters with easily identifiable conflicts nicely mirror larger catastrophes of plot. Full of adventure, romance and political intrigue if low on moral complexity, this highly readable fantasy will appeal particularly to young adults. Fans of Anne McCaffrey's Pern series will also be happy. (Mar. 1)

FYI: Lackey is the author of Exile's Valor (Forecasts, Oct. 27, 2003) and many other novels in her Valdemar series.