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This is the fifth book in an excellent sci-fi series for younger readers. And yet it remains, by and large, unnoticed by the major booksellers. Neither Barnes & Noble nor Borders carries the Dragonback novels; I have looked for them, many times and at many branches. The story is always the same: “We can order this for you…” Order, shmorder! These are books kids need to see, so they can think about buying and reading them. I can’t recommend them strongly enough!
I didn’t have to order this book, as it turns out. After hunting in vain for it at any number of bookstores, I found it by accident at the grocer’s, of all places. I was blowing time while having my car repaired at an adjacent shop, and as I mooched along an aisle of magazines and paperbacks, my eye fell upon Dragon and Judge peeking out of a small display of children’s books. God bless the grocer!
In Books 1-4 of Dragonback, one gets acquainted with Jack Morgan and his symbiotic partner Draycos. Jack is an orphan being raised by a starship whose computer is programmed with the personality of his con-artist Uncle Virgil. Draycos is a K’da poet-warrior, an alien rather like a dragon, only he needs to spend some time in two-dimensional form, like a living tattoo on Jack’s skin. Together they are trying to stop a bunch of shadowy villains from ambushing a Battlestar Galactica-like convoy of refugees from Draycos’s part of the galaxy – refugees fleeing from the sinister Valahgua and their weapon simply, but aptly, called the Death.
In this fifth book, Jack and Draycos have been joined by another symbiotic pair: Alison Kayna and a female dragon named Taneem. It’s hard to rely on them, though. Jack knows very little about Alison, and suspects her of having her own agenda. Taneem, meanwhile, is new at being a poet-warrior, and a bit mentally delayed – like a child in an adult’s body. Nevertheless, a lot is going to ride on these uneasy partners. For as soon as Jack sets foot on the backwater world of Semaline, he is kidnapped by a bunch of canyon-dwelling aliens and forced to act as a dispute-resolving, crime-solving Judge-Paladin.
While Jack slowly works out what all this has to do with the identity and fate of his parents, Alison falls prey to a second kidnapping. Captured by the very villains who want to wipe out all the K’da, she ends up back on the planet Brum-a-dum, on the same plantation from which Jack escaped in Dragon and Slave. There are still slaves on the plantation, waiting for another liberator like Jack, and expecting Alison to be it. Only this time, the Brummgas are prepared for a slave uprising. And the only chance Alison has of staying alive is to crack the safe containing the coordinates where the K’da fleet plans to rendezvous – and the ambush where the fate of Draycos’s people will play out in the sixth and final book, Dragon and Liberator.