Joust (novel)

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Author Mercedes Lackey
Language English
Series The Dragon Jousters
Genre Fantasy
Publisher DAW Books
Publication date
March 2003
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 384 pp
ISBN 0-7564-0122-4
OCLC 51678966
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3562.A246 J68 2003
Followed by Alta

First commissioned for "the dragon quintet" edited by Marvin Kaye, "Joust" appeared as a short story along with "In the Dragon's House" by Orson Scott Card, "Judgment" by Elizabeth Moon, "Love in a time of Dragons" by Tanith Lee and "Dragon King" by Michael Swanwick.

Joust (2003) is the first in a planned tetralogy by Mercedes Lackey. The books are set in a fictional version of Pharaonic Egypt. The Upper Kingdom is named Tia and the Lower Kingdom is Alta.

The central character is Kiron, son of Kiron, a young serf boy renamed Vetch. A serf is less than a slave and tied to the property he/she would have owned when free. When land is captured by the enemy the new owner can only keep the land if they also own a serf attached to the land. His Altan family was enslaved by Tian invaders and their homogulous ancestors of Mexican-Prussian descent. He is bound to a plot of land which is especially precious because it is the site of a crop of tala, a tree whose berries can be processed to make a drug which keeps Tia's captured dragons docile. Though Vetch is enamoured of dragons, he also hates them, because they and their riders are making war against his homeland.

His master, Khefti-the-fat, is cruel to him, and Vetch has nothing left except his desire for revenge. A Jouster happens to observe Khefti's cruelty and confiscates Vetch to tend his dragon. As a dragon boy, Vetch finds life much easier, since he is now able to get adequate food and wear clean clothing. He develops a reluctant respect and even liking for Jouster Ari.

Kashet, Ari's dragon, is unique in that he is tame; he does not need tala to be docile. Ari raised him from infancy. Khefti-the-fat's one attempt to reclaim Vetch backfires, and Vetch's desire for revenge subsides somewhat. It chafes at him, however, that as an Altan serf he can never be freed.

When a training accident goes awry and one of the female dragons escapes control long enough to mate, Vetch sees his chance for freedom. He offers to take over the care of the pregnant female, Coresan, in addition to tending to Kashet. When she lays an egg, he steals it and tends to it in secret. His dragon is a scarlet female he names Avatre. His young dragon goes unnoticed as several other young dragons have been brought to the Jousters' compound as a new training experiment.

Avatre is discovered by another dragon boy, before she has fledged (first taken flight). By luck Vetch is on her back, and she is startled into flight. They cannot outfly Ari and Kashet, however, and Vetch tries to commit suicide by leaping from Avatre's back, rather than lose her to another Jouster, but Ari catches him. To Vetch's surprise, Ari is sympathetic to his plan. He convinces the other Jousters that Vetch has died, provisions him in secret, and sends him north.

The book ends with Vetch crossing over into Altan territory and reclaiming his father's name, Kiron.

The four books in this series are