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Timothy Zahn of "Star Wars" spinoff novel fame tries his hand at young adult scifi, reprinted in paperback by Starscape Books. It's a straightforward, solid sci-fi adventure, though it lacks in character development and spends too much time on action chases.
Fourteen-year-old Jack Morgan is a thief, a fugitive, and an orphan accused of a crime he didn't commit; the guy raising him is a holographic replica of his Uncle Virge. When Jack is hiding on an abandoned planet, he sees ships engage in a battle, and one crashes. When he and Virge check out the wreckage, a dragon-like creature leaps at Jack -- and becomes a two-dimensional, tattoolike image on his skin.
It turns out the dragon is Draycos, a K'Da warrior whose symbiotic host died in the attack. The K'Da are incredibly smart and dangerous, but they die in six hours if their host dies. Jack soon learns that there are advantages to having the stalwart Draycos on his side -- especially when they are being attacked by the Valahgua, the deadly race who have lethal energy weapon "The Death." Together Jack and Draycos must clear Jack's name and stop the Valahgua.
"Dragon and Thief" takes place in a pretty standard sci-fi setting, with space travel, cool gadgets and a few trappings reminiscent of cheesy SF movies. Aliens, battles, and a teenaged anti-hero are the basis of it all. Zahn doesn't add a lot to the setting, but he gives a good feeling for the grit and danger of it.
Written with a young adult audience in mind, "Dragon and Thief" could use a few more pages. Zahn keeps the plot going by fast, but fails to pause for much development -- he barely even describes the future world that he drops readers into, and the characters don't get a lot of development. But he's clearly thought out the sci-fi elements, such as the Valahgua and the K'Da. The idea of a giant dragon that turns into a tattoo could have been silly, but Zahn pulls it off well.
Draycos (the dragon of the title) is by far the most interesting character in the book. He's a "poet-warrior," with a strict code of ethics and wicked fighting skills of all stripes. Jack (the thief) is substantially less interesting as an anti-hero, and he never develops much of a personality. Uncle Virge is much more interesting (which is surprising as he is actually dead).
"Dragon and Thief" is a flawed but promising start to a new sci-fi series. Zahn needs to get a better handle on the characters, but it might all turn out to be worth it in the end.
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on June 26, 2003
STORY: Fourteen-year-old orphan Jack Morgan,is on the run and finds himself hiding out on an unoccupied planet, his only companion an artificial intelligence programmed with the personality of his con man uncle Virge. Jack unexpectedly meets Draycos, a dragon-like K'da, sole survivor of an advance team of K'da and due to circumstance the two must form a symbiotic relationship in order to survive and find out how to clear Jack's name and get the police off his back.
1) SETTING - The title of the book brought expectations of a fantasy novel to mind so I was nicely surprised to see it was a sci-fi story. We get little peeks into an alien planet (it doesn't feel too alien though), space station/community, and a luxury space yacht (made me think of Fifth Element). The world is given very little detail but what is given is functional and entertaining. I look forward to the rest of the series fleshing the universe out a lot more.
2) CHARACTERS - I like our three protagonists a lot. Each one has thier separate voice and brings along individual strengths to the story. What is the appeal of the book is the growing friendship between Jack and Draycos. Nicely done.
My only complaint is that Draycos seems overly powerful to the point that it becomes almost too much to believe...even for an alien race.
3) PLOT - Here is where I knock things down from a 5 star to a 4 star. First of all, the story read fast and easy and before you know it you are done with all 250 pages. That is good. What is bad is that it feels like one big prologue (which it kind of is) to a much larger story, thus it leaves very little (almost nothing) resolved. How much longer do we have to wait till the next book comes out to hopefully resolve some of the story??? I hope not too long.
Also, Jack at one point goes on a "mission" on a space yacht...he and Draycos seem to do the "impossible" way too easy.
I did like the descent plot twists and turns. It was enough to keep me turning the pages.
OVERALL: This is my first Timothy Zahn book. It was a fun fast read, just perfect for summer when it is too hot to go outside. The story makes you want more but who knows how long you'll have to wait. Thus, if you think you'll forget everything before the next book comes out, then wait until the next book comes out and read them both back-to-back.
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on June 19, 2003
Draycos is a warrior poet of the K'da - a dragon on a scouting mission in the hopes of saving his entire species from certai demise at the hands of the Valahgua, an alien race bent on their destruction.
Jack is a 14 year old on the run from the law for a crime he did not commit. He does have a shady past, but wants to clean up and make a better life for himself. When the stories of these two collide, a fun and fast paced story (albeit one lacking a little bit in substance) results.
Jack becomes Draycos' "host", a symbiotic process where Jack gives Draycos the life force he needs, and Draycos helps Jack fight his way out of some sticky situations on the way to clearing his name and ultimately defeating the evil foes we get a brief glimpse of at the beginning of this book. They have some rip roaring adventures along the way.
The ending is an enormous cliffhanger (not to worry, as Zahn plans on making this a 6 book series).
Don't read this if you're looking for "serious" sci-fi. But if you don't mind a sometimes confusing, but upbeat narrative, choose this.
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on February 9, 2003
This was originally pitched as a young adult series to the publisher, who apparently decided to market it as an adult series anyway. The result - a squinky little undersized 250-page hardcover, right on the heels of two 400+ page Zahn tomes in a row. I admit I was a little reluctant to shell out the cash for it, but I did anyway, because it's Zahn, and he's never let me down before.
I am SO glad I did. The effect of the original concept being a young-adult series seems to be that he takes all of his usual strengths and just condenses them, packing the same amount of awesomeness into a tighter space. His writing style doesn't seem to have been affected at all - I never felt like what I was reading was "dumbed down" or anything like that. All of the Zahn hallmarks are here - the complex and surprising plot, the human and sympathetic characters, and the taut and concise action scenes - just in a smaller space. As opposed to a cast of 20 characters, there is a cast of 2, but they're both GREAT.
Also, needless to say, the usual Zahn creativity with aliens and worlds remains - one of the main characters is a dragon thing that lives in 4 dimensions, and can either show as a three dimensional creature or two dimensional in our world. He lives wrapped around the other main character like a tattoo, and can jump off and fight at will. It's an interesting concept, and makes for an interesting character.
Overall, if you've ever read anything by Zahn and liked it, you won't want to miss this, despite it being overpriced and short. If you're new to Zahn, I'd reccomend a longer one like Icarus Hunt to get you hooked, but for anyone that's liked his earlier work, this will please you more than you expect.
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on February 1, 2003
His parents died years ago and his only living relative Uncle Virgo recently passed away, leaving fourteen year old Jack Morgan by himself except for the virtual essence of his deceased guardian. Jack has been set up to take the fall for stolen valuable cargo. He is an easy frame, as he is guilty by association or in this case blood, as his late uncle was a known con man.
Jack flees to a remote planet, but in the skies observes a fight with one of the combatant ships crashing near him. The only survivor of the wreck is the K'da dragon Draycos. Jack might have felt he had plenty of troubles, but he soon learns what it's like to have the weight of the world on your back. Draycos exists either as a two-dimensional "tattoo" on his host's skin or as a three-dimensional dragon. His current host died during the attack and with no one else around, he persuades Jack to become his new host. This unlikely pairing of a warrior poet with a bungling teenage thief leads to adventures neither anticipated when they joined at the hip.
Clearly targeting the young adult audience, though the older Norton readers will enjoy the novel, DRAGON AND THIEF is an exciting science fiction adventure story. Readers will appreciate the relationship between the intelligent experience dragon and the exuberant youth, which makes for a fine time for the audience. The worlds seem real and the joining seems strangely plausible requiring author Timothy Zahn to bare his back so his fans can see his tattoo.
Harriet Klausner
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on June 16, 2003
Science fiction has become one of two things: licensed property such as Star Trek or Star Wars or over-long, overwrought "epics." (400 pages of novel had better be brilliant...sadly most aren't...even Timothy Zahn)
Thank God Zahn remembers the fun of SciFi with THIS book.
Supposedly written for young adults...okay but it is a ripping good yarn, solid characters and fast. The reading equivilent to the Saturday matinee. Don't let the prospect that this is the first of six books daunt you...if all are this much fun, I hope they come monthly.
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on July 19, 2004
I recommend this book to anyone 12 and up because it is sci-fi so some of the words are not real words like K'da and Draycos. It also has many parts that are very unrealistic like when the alien said to Jack, '"Make this jump."'
Then Jack said '"I can't it is to high up." 'Then the alien said '"You can make it if you believe."' So Jack jumps up 20 feet and makes it. Although this story has many non-fiction parts some aspects of it happen today. For example, the company that framed Jack kills three people in front of him. Then the company said, "If you do not do what we say we will tell the police that you killed those three people and you will go to jail for life." These kinds of killings happen all the time. So if you like challenging sci-fi books, this is the book for you.
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