The former serf Vetch and his stolen dragon escape to his homeland of Alta in this sequel to the well-received Joust. Vetch has learned the secrets of taming dragons and hopes to teach them to his people in order to build an army to save Alta from the tyranny of their Tian conquerors. He shows the dragonridersJoustershow to impress newly hatched dragons, instead of drugging them into submission as adults. While Vetch brings hope to the Altans, there are factions who don't want the war between Tia and Alta to end.
Although comparisons to Anne McCaffrey's Pern are inevitable, Lackey's tale is similar only in the way the dragon-riders learn to care for their mounts. Her dragons are fierce fighting creatures, weapons of war. The exotic and colorful setting, loosely based on ancient Egypt, is an integral part of the story, and Vetch's coming of age as a hero is emotional and effective. Knowledge of the first book in the series isn't vital but will enhance the reading experience. (Mar., 432 pp., $24.95)
Jen Talley Exum