REVIEW: Dragon and Soldier by Timothy Zahn

REVIEW: Dragon and Soldier by Timothy ZahnDragon and Soldier (Dragonback #2) by Timothy Zahn
Published: Starscape (2004), eBook, 304pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Action, Adventure, Fiction, Sci-fi

Draycos, a golden-scaled draconic K'da poet-warrior, was on a scout fleet ship when it was attacked, with him the lone survivor. Forced to find a new symbiotic humanoid host, he found Jack Morgan. Jack has been on his own, making his way by shipping interstellar cargo on the ship he's inherited from his Uncle Virgil, a con-man and thief who met with a fatal accident. Draycos has vowed to uncover those behind a vast conspiracy to wipe out his people, while Jack is determined to find out who framed him for a crime he didn't commit. Virgil, who survives as "Uncle Virge" in the ship's computer, is against their plan. But Draycos once saved Jack's life, so Jack feels an obligation to this strange creature who can slip onto the boy's skin, pressing against it like a living tattoo. Knowing that mercenaries were involved in the ambush that killed Draycos's fleet, Jack enlists in a mercenary outfit that practically enslaves adolescent recruits.

But the soldier's life isn't exactly what Jack had bargained for, especially when a mysterious girl is recruited into his group. Strange things are happening, and people and events are not always as they seem. (From Amazon)

First off: there’s a female character in here, and she plays an important role! I mean, it’s only ONE important female character in a sea of important male characters, but it’s still an improvement on the male-female ratio from the first book. Plus there’s two other side female characters, although I…can’t remember if they actually got a chance to talk or not.

Secondly: yay, character development! Not only in Jack’s case, either– Draycos is slightly different in this second book than how he is in the first. He says something about how he and Jack are changing to suit each other better as partners. Like, Draycos is learning to think a bit more like a thief, and Jack is learning to think more like a warrior. Also, there’s some interesting sections in here where Jack has to fight against his training as a thief in order to do the right thing, i.e. look out for people besides himself. It’s interesting watching him struggle to become a better person, especially because he has to navigate around his uncle’s “lessons” while learning Draycos’ warrior ethics and someone how lose himself in the process. Fun stuff!

Thirdly: I think there’s even more action in this book than in the first book. Things explode, people get shot at, I’m pretty sure someone gets punched and there’s a whole flying sequence where more things explode and everyone nearly dies. Exciting! Although mostly the action seemed to be in the second half of the book. The first half, despite it being set in a mercenary boot camp, is pretty tame. The excitement there comes more from the espionage/sneak thievery that Draycos and Jack try to do, but which doesn’t work out and really, that part in the camp? Was kind of boring. It seemed to be more in the story so Jack could get a bit of military training (albeit really crappy training) which I’m assuming he’ll need in later books…maybe. Or perhaps it was just there to introduce the female character, Alison. She seems important, though she doesn’t do much in this book but be snarly and mysterious.

I also think the sequence in the training camp wasn’t as good as it could have been because I knew that, while Jack and Draycos were temporarily trapped there, they had to figure out a way to get out (and un-mercenarized) so the story could advance. The “danger” element wasn’t ever really there despite it clearly trying to be “dangerous,” and so it felt more like a resting point between two bigger plot elements than a major plot element in its own right.

Fourthly (and finally): a lot of this book strongly reminds me of Ender’s Game, although that might only be because of the teenage soldier thing. But there’s other similar elements as well: lying adults, treachery, betrayal, and learning that your enemy might not actually be an enemy at all. (That happened in Ender’s Game, right? It’s been ages since I read it last; I can’t really remember details.) It’s a strong addition to what’s shaping up to be a really good series, but I have to reiterate: needs more female characters.

Read: April 8-9, 2011

3 thoughts on “REVIEW: Dragon and Soldier by Timothy Zahn”

    1. Sort of, but not really? She’s tough and obviously military trained (and probably some sort of super teenage spy), but she also has different principles/morals from both of the male protagonists. We don’t actually get a whole lot of insight into who she is or where she’s from (or what she’s doing there)– she’s more like a mysterious new character who’s obviously going to fiddle with the plot in some way in later books.

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