Friday, July 31, 2009

Aerie - Mercedes Lackey

Aerie
Mercedes Lackey
DAW
Copyright Date: 2006
978-0756404260
The jacket blurb:
The young man known as Kiron had escaped death at the hands of the Magi, the ambitious, unethical order of sorcerers that had controlled his home country, Alta, through a magical tyranny of terror.

Kiron had managed to flee Alta with his fellow Jousters and their dragons, some members of the royal family, and close friends. They had escaped to a lost city in the desert, a place now called Sanctuary. From there they had waged war and vanquished their powerful enemy, liberating Alta.

But just surviving in the desert, with more and more sympathetic refugees appearing every day, more people to feed and house, more dragonets to raise, was a daunting prospect. And seemingly just in time, with Sanctuary overflowing, they had discovered and ancient cliff-dweller's cave city, deep in the desert.

No one knew the origins of this mysterious, primitive place made of myriad caves hillowed from the faces of mighty cliffs. And no one could figure out why the caves of the lowest level were huge pits that seemed custom-made for dragons' lairs. But though the primeval city held its secrets, Kiron and his Dragon Jouster army gratefully moved in and called the city Aerie.

But space was not the only issue the rebel nation faced, for though they had conquered the Magi, they had not managed to destroy all of these villainous magicians. Would the surviving Magi try to achieve through surreptitious means the conquest they had not won through violence?

The final book in Mercedes Lackey's Dragon Jouster series, Aerie made a satisfying conclusion. It was a quick read, with some very interesting twists, including to things we already thought we knew, such as the relationship being set up between Kiron and Aket-ten. Is that relationship as much a foregone conclusion as we thought?

There's also more about Kiron's family, one of the unanswered questions from the first book, which comes to light in this book. Really, this is a book that I found I couldn't put down. There's at least two background story plots running through Aerie as well as the main plot.

Unlike the previous two books, where I wasn't certain if I'd read them when they first came out, I'm absolutely positive I hadn't read Aerie before. Like the other books in the series, Joust, Alta and Sanctuary it's a book suited for everyone from teens to adults of any age. There's nothing too graphic in it either, and some thought provoking ideas as well.

Especially concerning religion. Mercedes Lackey has come up with a very interesting religious structure, based on our ancient Egyptian civilization. Although it's clearly set out in the previous books, everything really comes to life in Aerie, including some debates on things typically thought of as evil, such as the god Seft.

I've noted it in my reviews of the other books in the Dragon Jouster series, but the use of the ancient Egyptian culture in this series works very well. Not only that, but it makes for a very interesting change, given that most fantasy I've read (and that includes most of Mercedes Lackey's), aside from the urban fantasy genre, is usually based on a medieval European structure. To use a desert-based climate and civilization gives the books a completely different feel.

Similarly, Mercedes Lackey's dragons in these books. Where dragons in other series, be they the villains, or partners with the heroes, or even an independent being entirely, are often fully intelligent and able to talk, and/or do magic of their own, Lackey's dragons are not. Instead, they're rather like a mix of falcons/hawks and cats. And, they can't breathe fire, or have any other magical power. I can't think of any other author I've read who's done that before.

Overall, I really liked this series. They're fun, quick and clean reads, which make a nice change from heavier fare for the summer.
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