by Timothy Zahn
Fourth in the Dragonback series. I like that not much was predictable in this story. Jack is trying to locate those who want to commit genocide against Draycos\’ race, and at the same time pinpoint a rendevous where he can meet the ships carrying the K\’da, before they are intercepted and wiped out. He winds up on a strange planet with Kayna (yeah, she showed up again) and soon finds himself fleeing some enemies he made in the past. To everyone\’s surprise they encounter, living in symbiosis with a native species on the planet, a remnant of the K\’da. Just as dragonlike as Draycos himself but unintelligent and apathetic, treated as herd animals by the locals. Jack and Draycos can\’t let these creatures get killed by the misfortune of being in the path of battle- so they round them up and take them along as they flee into the alien forest. What follows was very interesting. I paid less attention to all the description of fighting and evasive tactics, and would have rather read more about the curious turns the human\’s relationships with the K\’da took. Jack finds himself attentive to the different abilities and personalities of the degenerate K\’da, learning how to guide them and taking care of their needs. Draycos finds himself drawn to a gray female that reminds him of someone he once knew. And -without much apparent forethought- Kayna becomes host to one- with unexpected results. Everything is changing, even preceptions of the past- hints arise that the noble warrior ethic and legends Draycos has told Jack about K\’da history, might well have a darker side. I was just a tad disappointed that a lot of this got glossed over- for example, the characters\’ reactions at discovering the dragonlike animals, and likewise at seeing what happened later on, when Kayna let one slide onto her skin in two-dimensional form, seemed really downplayed. I would have expected more shock, or curiosity, or arguments even- but then maybe Jack and Kayna accepted new things so readily because they had to- their main focus being on the run for their lives. The writing really has more emphasis on the action scenes which I\’m sure is plenty exciting for the younger audience this is aimed at.