May 30, 2016

Joust

by Mercedes Lackey

A young boy living in servitude to his enemies is randomly picked by a Jouster to be his new dragon-boy. In this world- something like ancient Egypt but with magic and dragons- the Jousters train dragons and ride them in battle. This kid nurses lifelong hatred towards his overseers, but makes the best of his lot and turns out to be good at working with dragons, and a quick learner. The Jouster he works for is different than the others- he doesn't want fame, gold or awards, and doesn't like killing innocents in his line of duty- and so is his dragon. All the other dragons are caught as wild fledgelings and then forcefully trained to accept human riders, but this particular Jouster took the extra trouble of raising a dragon from the egg, so his relationship with it is different. The boy figures that his best bet for freedom is to steal an egg himself, and raise a dragon in secret. Right in the middle of this dragon/soldier compound. There were a lot of things I wanted to like about this story. I liked the character of the main Jouster, he had good morals and a different outlook on everything. I liked the boy- aloof from his peers, eager to learn, smart and good with the animals. I liked the idea of different ways of training dragons being introduced- not only raising them from an egg, but other methods mimicking falconry came into play later on. (Interestingly, the dragons in this world don't breathe fire. And they are usually controlled with compounds extracted from plants- routinely drugged into complacency).

But I didn't like the writing style. I should have known, from having tried this author once before. There is too much telling and explaining. The main character does a lot of brooding over things, most of what you get is him thinking- musing on others' motives, figuring out how and why things are done by eavesdropping, planning and daydreaming his future. There's also lots of explanation about the culture and history and setting, some of it repeated quite a few times. It really got in the way of enjoying the story. The interesting parts where the kid hatches his plan to raise his own dragon, doesn't occur until you're more than two-thirds through the book. By that time I was bored with a lot of it and mostly skimming to read the parts that interested me. The pacing is really odd- I swear the first hundred and fifty pages of the book cover one day. Then it moves through a reasonable set of days and weeks, and suddenly it's been a year and the kid knows how to do everything with dragons better than people who've been trained in it longer than he was alive. A lot of it seemed just unlikely, or way too convenient. The whole basic storyline was very familiar too. Different enough that it could have been a good read, if it had been better written. There were even some errors that really threw me off- the wrong name used for a character in the middle of the book, a mistaken homonym, a bunch of %% symbols in a sentence where someone is speaking!

I know this author has lots of fans, has written lots of books, very successful. But not for me- I just couldn't like it.

Rating: 2/5       373 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Stella Matutina

3 comments:

Thistle said...

Aww it's too bad about the book's issues, because otherwise I love that story idea (boy forced to serve in the enemy's camp... with dragons!).

I've not read anything by her in ages, not since I was a teenager.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I too have not read anything by her in ages, since I was a teenager. I liked some of her books quite a lot as a teenager, but they haven't aged well, or else I've become much more choosy. I don't think you'll be missing out by not reading any further Mercedes Lackey books, let's put it that way. :p

Jeane said...

Yeah. I was curious what she did with this series, the dragon idea- so I read a bunch of amzn reviews on the other three books. It appears to all go downhill rather quickly. In terms of quality. Oh well.