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Joust: Joust #1 (Dragon Jousters) Hardcover – March 4, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
In this elegant, compelling fantasy from the prolific author of the Valdemar series (Arrows Fall, etc.), Lackey combines meticulously detailed dragon lore with emotionally intense, realistic human characters. In the arid desert country of Tia, the Altan serf Vetch has to scramble after whatever crumbs are left over after the servants, the slaves and the animals have been fed, while doing the work of three or four full-grown boys. Being hungry is hard enough to take at the best of times, but being a hungry, growing boy, sorely overworked during the dry season when even the beasts of burden are sheltered against the cruel sun, is intolerable. By chance (or the will of the gods), this dreadful situation comes to the notice of one who can change it. Jouster Ari, a dragon rider and a warrior of the Great King of Tia, dislikes cruelty to animals, men and even to mere serfs. In a neat turn of events, Vetch becomes Ari's dragon boy and the caretaker of Ari's dragon, Kashet. What follows is a detailed look at the lives of Tia's dragons, their dragon riders and those who care for them. This uplifting tale, which contains a valuable lesson or two on the virtues of hard work, is a must-read for dragon lovers in particular and for fantasy fans in general.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* Hunger, anger, and hatred are constants for young Vetch, rendered a brutally mistreated and overworked serf by the Tian conquest of his homeland. But everything improves when a Tian jouster requisitions Vetch to become the first serf ever to be a dragon boy. His training is intense, and his duty clear-cut: to tend his jouster, Ari, and his dragon, Kashet. He discovers that, because Ari himself had hatched Kashet, the dragon is different from others that have been captured live in the wild and must be drugged to be made tractable. Vetch finds he really likes and understands dragons, and soon he becomes the best dragon boy of all. He still harbors anger, however, toward the Tian invasion. Could he, perhaps, hatch a dragon, and then escape to help his people? In Vetch's world, Lackey gives us a wonderfully visualized society, similar in terrain, climate, religion, and the differing circumstances of slave, serf, and free person to ancient Egypt. Moreover, she fills the book with well-limned characterizations and convincing, detailed dragon lore to make up a whole in which Vetch's coming-of-age becomes an integral part. Fans of McCaffrey's Pern will love it, but they won't be the only ones who do. Sally Estes
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Being an Inheritance Cycle junkie, i was a bit skeptical at first. However upon reading the first chapter, i was hooked. The protagonist, though not completely relatable, is understandable and without the "Point A" to "Point B" linear thinking. The use of magic is tasteful and reserved. The lack of telepathy between the dragon and rider, often used as a crutch by these kinds of books, makes for an interestingly fresh point of view. And despite the existence of magic and dragons, the obvious cultural references to ancient Egypt only serve to make this book, or rather series, even more immersive than others in it's genre.
I simply loved this book. Vetch was such an engaging and wonderful character that I was really rooting for him the whole time. The secondary characters were also wonderful and I suffered along with Ari as he tried to reconcile his honor with his orders, the great overseer Haraket, the falconer Baken and so many others. I thought that the world this book was set in was quite fascinating and was reminiscent of ancient Babylonia and Egypt. The dragons were different than other dragons in that they were definitely animals and incapable of thinking for themselves, but they could learn some affection for their masters if shown kindness and love. My only complaint with the book is that it was not edited very well and there are quite a few grammatical errors, nothing that detracts from the story, but the editor did not do a good job. Still, I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series to see what happened to all of these new friends I have found!
The story takes place in a civilization that can be compared to the old Egypt; this is a nice change from other books about dragons where the adventures take place in somewhat medieval atmospheres.
In this book we meet Vetch, he is a young boy that has lived worse than a slave for a long time since his village was conquered, fortunately he was found by Joust Ari (dragon rider) who gave him a dignified job and was a great example for him that managed to get him to have the will to live again, and to imprint the image that he is worth it.
Vetch is developed nicely throughout the plot; I was pleased to find myself angry when he was angry and I really felt bad about his past, he is a character that the author managed to wonderfully create and give a defined image. I found myself loving Kashet as if he was a real puppy and Ari is a character that I hope we get to meet again in the other books.
For all dragon lovers out there, you won't regret reading this book.
I will go read the next book now!