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This fourth book in the Dragonback series is one of the handful of books I have awaited with the greatest anticipation. It really surprises me how few copies of this book and its companions one sees in the big chain bookstores. In fact, I eventually had to special-order this book, because Borders showed no inclination to carry it on their shelves. This is the kind of error and injustice I feel it is the duty of The Book Trolley to address. Please hear my appeal, and go to any effort necessary to get hold of Timothy Zahn’s Dragonback books, beginning with Dragon and Thief and now including a fifth book, Dragon and Judge. You wont be disappointed. They are, in my opinion, one of the strongest ongoing contenders for the title of Best Series To Turn To When Harry Potter Is Over.
Jack Morgan has gone through a lot with his Kda symbiont. Draycos, in his three-dimensional form, is a large, powerful, dangerous dragon, a poet-warrior whose values of honor and courage have increasingly rubbed off on the boy. Or maybe this rubbing off happened during Draycos spells in two-dimensional form, when he needs to spend one hour out of seven resting against his hosts skin like a moving, talking tattoo.
Raised by a con-man uncle with a look-out-for-number-one outlook, and still sheltered by a starship whose computer is imprinted with that uncles personality, fourteen-year-old Jack couldnt have been a more unlikely partner for Draycos, in the beginning. By now, they seem more like a team. But Jack is concerned. Strange things are happening, things Draycos has never experienced before, things that may suggest that Jacks body is rejecting Draycos such as the dragons newfound ability to slide off Jacks skin in two-dimensional form, and his heightened senses, etc.
Together, the pair is still trying to figure out how to stop the Malison Ring of mercenaries, and their other associates, from destroying a wave of refugees from Dracyoss homeworld. The Kda and their Shontine hosts will be sitting ducks for the ambush, unless Jack and Draycos get there first to warn them. But this is no easy task. A bungled attempt to hack the Malison Rings computers leads to an unlikely rescue by Jacks sometime messmate, fellow soldier-in-training Alison. The mercenaries manage to track Jack to the planet where he was going to drop Alison off, and suddenly the pair find themselves leading a herd of feral Kda through a primitive forest, hoping to protect them from the heavily-armed soldiers committed to destroying them.
Draycos himself isnt pleased to meet these new Kda, or rather, Phookas. Their docility and lack of intelligence raise disturbing doubts about his beliefs about Kda history. But Jack proves to have a remarkable gift as a herdsman, and a surprising commitment to saving the Phookas and their chubby, berry-eating Erassva hosts. Their work is cut out for them, with several days forced march between them and the site where Jacks ship may be waiting for them if it hasnt already been destroyed. Meanwhile, they face hazards from nature as well as the increasingly fool-proof maneuvers of their mercenary pursuers.
Before they reach their journeys end, surprises are in store some of them exciting, some disturbing. At the end, it is clear that Draycos and Jacks most perilous adventures lie still ahead. Equally clear is the fact that this series is the most captivating read in young readers science fiction today. Try it if you dont believe me. If you do believe me, then you know what you have to do!