The Midas Touch: A Review of Lackey’s Dragon Jousters

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Alta, Mercedes Lackey, Daw Books, Inc., 2004

Mercedes Lackey is a machine, isn’t she? The amount of material that she pumps out amazes me, and what’s more, most of what I’ve read of hers has been . . . I’m hesitant to say the word good because I ground through her work when I was still in youth—harder to judge work when you’re a child and know nothing of actual work, and all that.

As a child I would have used the word amazing. I first fell in love with Joust. The story of an orphan serf captured slave and dragon boy, only to be presented with means of escape. I was enthralled. I read through the pages twice, more eager for the second run than I was the first.

It’s only natural, then, that I would pick up the second book in the series—I hadn’t even realized it was a series until a friend of mine informed me of that nugget in eighth-grade government class; it was period two. On my way home from my next trip to the Peru, Indiana Public Library, I flipped through my newly-rented books. Alta, the second book in Lackey’s dragon-jousting series (Yeah, it’s exactly what it sounds like), was not among them.

I can’t tell you why I waited so long to read the second installment, but I’m invaluably grateful to myself that I did. My 14-year-old mind would have adored it by mistake, just by proximity to the first book alone.

There is so much wrong with Alta that I set it down. I doubt I’ll get around to picking it back up. For starters, the author rips away the main character’s identity, giving him a new name. This isn’t a good start for former readers. I understand that, as a serf, Vetch had been freed from bondage. And it makes sense to give him a new name—Kiron; it helps for his development. However, in Alta, there isn’t any lead up to it. No description or recounting the first book for it to make sense. There is no development, just a new identity.

In Joust, the MC has an entire story arc, from farm boy that loses his family to freed slave willing to fight for his home country. In Alta, he seems to be a sixty-year-old in an 11-year-old’s body. (I think he’s eleven. Lackey says he’s not sure but has to be close to other characters’ ages.) He knows or guesses things that no prepubescent teen would. About the history of the town. Based on the shape of the city. Let me repeat that. History of a town based on the shape of a city. He’s eleven. There isn’t anything for him to make connections between, especially since he hasn’t received an education, yet he still makes the connection. And then there are times he seems like he’s six. I don’t understand it. There isn’t any carry-over.

What I do understand is that the book is arguably for young adults, and they aren’t as harsh critics. That being said, if you’re going to write for young adults, don’t fill their heads with nonsense. They are so easily molded. Give them treasures instead of trash, of which I feel, and I’m sure most would agree, authors write just for the Benjamins. It seems a little cliché, but if you want to see the world a better place, put better work in. A system can’t produce gold if you’re pumping in shit.

I gave Alta a 1-star rating on Goodreads.com. And I don’t feel bad. She’s published so much. After all that, there really aren’t any excuses.

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