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Many, many times a week I receive messages from readers, asking where they should turn after reading all the Harry Potter books until their pages fell out. What answer could be more appropriate than another thrilling fantasy series featuring a teenaged boy hero? Only, that doesnt really narrow it down very much. That could, for example, be a description of the Pendragon, Gregor, Magickers, or Artemis Fowl series, just off the top of my head. If youre willing to make a stretch into other genres, there are also the Alex Rider spy novels, the Darren Shan horror cycle, and even a series of juvenile mysteries featuring the Diamond Brothers. But that leaves a gaping genre hole: science fiction.
Well, I have now found a series to plug that hole: the Dragonback series. It took me a while but then, not being much of a sci-fi fan, I wasnt looking very hard. Actually, I have had the first three Dragonback books on my shelf for quite a while, but only when I read them did I discover that this ongoing series by Hugo-award-winning, sometime Star Wars novelist Timothy Zahn, is as exciting, thought-provoking, and unputdownable as the Pendragon and Alex Rider books.
In this first book of the Dragonback series, two heroes meet. One is a human boy named Jack Morgan: a 14-year-old orphan, raised by a con man to know all the tricks of the trade, and now alone in the universe except for a spaceship computer with the programmed-in personality of his late Uncle Virge. Jack is on the run from the law when he witnesses a space battle high above an uninhabited planet. While sifting through the wreckage of one of the ships, he discovers the other member of the titular duo: Draycos. (Ill bet you can already guess which one is Dragon and which is Thief.)
Draycos looks like a tiger-sized dragon with golden scales that turn black when he goes into his battle rage. But Draycos really isnt a dragon. He is a poet-warrior of the Kda race an intelligent, alien being from a far corner of the galaxy. And heres the weird part: he can only stay in three-dimensional form for about six hours at a time. The rest of the time, he has to take the form of a moving, talking tattoo on the skin of some other being like his Shontine partner who was killed in the crash and like Jack, the first human he has ever met.
Soon Jack and Draycos get to know each other really, really well. Its hard to beat sharing the same body surface most of the time. Its not a parasite-host relationship, though. Its more like a symbiosis, where Draycos draws energy from Jacks skin, and Jack finds a fierce and loyal protector in Draycos.
Still, they both tend to hope it will be a temporary partnership. They are quite an odd couple, after all. Jack is full of street-wise figures of speech and the look out for number one ethics of his cheating, stealing uncle. Draycos is serious, morally upright, and given to composing epic poetry. Every time he seems to be influencing Jack for the better, the interfering, digital personality of Uncle Virge butts in (or rather, bytes in) with his self-serving values.
So they make a deal. Draycos will help Jack clear his name of a crime he didnt commit…and Jack will help Draycos find out how his peoples enemy, the Velahgua, managed to set a trap for his peoples advance guard, and how to keep the rest of Draycos people from falling into that trap as they flee from the Velahguas aptly named Death weapon.
In this book, Draycos settles his end of the deal. The two unlikely partners prove to be strong allies in a battle of wits and wills against powerful, big-money villains. Jacks nerve and nimble fingers combine with Draycos swift reflexes and warrior skills to keep the pair alive through many futuristic dangers. And with everything going against them, they somehow make it to the bottom of a mystery that includes a murder plot, kidnapping, breaking into a bank vault, surprises, betrayals, narrow escapes, and even a few clues about who was behind the attack on Draycos ship.
And with that encouraging start, the Dragonback series takes off and it is still flying, at least four books strong. Once you hop aboard, you wont want to get off after just one book. This is no problem if you start right away on the second book, titled Dragon and Soldier.