by Jane Yolen
This is the first novel in the Pit Dragon Trilogy
that continues with
The author has also written a Young Merlin Trilogy
and a Tartan Magic
well as a Starscape book entitled Briar Rose
Picture the planet Austar IV, a dry forbidding world, and at one time a penal colony. One of the
things mankind found on this nasty ball of sand and rock was a nearly extinct species--real
dragons. And through breeding and training, the species has been revived--and a new form of
popular entertainment, pit fighting and the gambling industry that surrounds it, has become the
basis of a whole planet's economy.
Today (assuming "today" is sometime in the 26th century) it is a Protectorate, neither a full
member of the Galactic Federation nor an independent world. Besides the pits andthe baggeries
(don't ask) and the stew-shops, pretty much the rest of the planet is given over to dragon farms
where the big, hot-blooded, winged worms are carefully bred, trained, and cared for.
Another holdover from the old days of the penal colony is the distinction between bond and free.
Only now it is a more fluid distinction. Everyone who is "in bond" wears a bag around his neck,
and when that little bag is filled with coins, he can buy his freedom and become a "master"
One such bondboy is Jakkin, who works on a dragon farm belonging to one of the great dragon
breeders of the time, Sarkkhan. Jakkin's ambition is to steal a dragon's egg (which isn't
technically wrong, since very few of the eggs actually have a baby dragon in them), raise and
train his own dragon, and enter it in the pits so he can buy his freedom and become his own man.
But this is complicated. It means sneaking around in the dead of night, covering up his tracks
in the sand lest others find the oasis where his "snatchling" lives, finding food for the little
beast, and figuring out how to turn a wild baby dragon into a trained fighter. It helps that he
can communicate with it telepathically. But what doesn't help is that a girl named Akki, who
stirs confusing desires in Jakkin, also knows his secret. Or that a sharp-eyed, really really
mean old trainer has a grudge against him. Or that there are other winged lizards besides
dragons, who would like to have his precious snatchling for breakfast...
This is an exciting and colorful fantasy tale with a charismatic young hero who could give Harry
Potter a run for his money. BUT I think this book falls more in the category of "young adults"
than "children's literature." Be advised, anyway: there is some mild sexual content, and the
story also depicts drug use and somewhat graphic violence.
Recommended Age: 14+
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