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Joust (2003)

About This Book

Joust is the first book in the Dragon Jousters series.

The first book in this thrilling new series introduces readers to a young slave who dreams of becoming a Jouster-one of the few warriors who can actually ride a flying dragon. And so, in secret, he begins to raise his own dragon.Vetch was an Atlan serf. Anger was his only real sustenance—anger that the land he worked had once been his family’s farm, and anger at the kind of work he did—for the crop he helped raise gave the Jousters their ability to control the great dragons that had enabled Tia to conquer more than a third of what had once been Atlan lands. It seemed that Vetch’s entire cruel fate revolved around dragons and the Jousters who rode them. But his fate changed forever the day he first saw a dragon. From its narrow, golden, large-eyed head, to its pointed emerald ears, to the magnificent blue wings which were spread to catch the sun, the dragon was a thing of multicolored, jeweled beauty, slim and supple and quite as large as the shed it perched on. Vetch almost failed to notice the tall, muscular Jouster who stood drinking from his water bucket. And when Vetch’s master raised his whip to punish the serf who had dared to pause in his duties, the Jouster had stilled his hand. “I need a boy,” he said, and with that and a call to his mount, Vetch found himself lifted above the earth and transported like magic to a different world. If this Jouster had tamed his dragon, perhaps Vetch too could tame a dragon. And if he could, then he might be able to escape. And if he could escape, maybe he could even bring the secret of dragon-taming back to his homeland of Atlan. And maybe, just maybe, that secret might prove to be the key to Atlan’s liberation…

Description according to Mercedes Lackey:
Why Dragons?A good question that; there is really no reason (speculation about racial memory going back to the first primates notwithstanding) that dragons should be such a persistent mythic theme. The earliest known reference is in Babylonian literature, to the great dragon/goddess Tiamat, and the latest known populate the shelves of the fantasy section of the bookstores. Maybe it has something to do with the alien quality of reptiles. Sooner or later every fantasy writer seems to have a go at them, and I’m no exception to that. This time around, though, I decided to take several different takes on the subject. Most of the current dragon literature treats dragons as on a par with humans insofar as intelligence goes. I decided to treat them instead as really big “birds” of prey—featherless raptors the size of small airplanes, if you will. Now, as a raptor rehabber, I know a fair bit about raptors, and I’m using that knowledge in handling the behavior, the bonding, and the training of the dragons in the Joust series. I’m also fascinated with ancient history, in particular, the history of Egypt, and I’d wanted to do something in the nature of a fantasy in that setting, but there’s a bit of a problem with that. Egyptian scholars are some of the nit-pickiest people on the planet, and as Barbara Mertz (aka mystery writer Elizabeth Peters) has pointed out, endlessly argumentative. They wouldn’t like an Egypt with fantasy elements; anything I got “wrong” would generate nuisance-letters. Any book with a lot of fantasy-elements in it would open the floodgates. And I had always wanted to do something with the Atlantis myth too; alas, Atlantis doesn’t do well commercially… But, if I took pre-dynastic Egypt and the conflict between Upper and Lower Egypt, used Atlantis as Lower Egypt, turned the whole thing into a fantasy setting and added raptor-dragons…

Ah, now there was a plan! And the more I thought about it, the easier it all fitted together, and the dragons—oh, the dragons! True desert-dragons, designed to cope with and even thrive in hot sands. Not fire-breathing; trying to work out things as big at that which fly and carry a rider was going to be difficult enough to set up logically. It would make them, more-or-less, the equivalent of WWI biplanes, with riders perhaps dropping pots of Greek Fire, or snatching up military leaders to drop them from a great height, and certainly spying and patrolling from above. This made me think of the Flying Aces (which I am researching for Phoenyx and Ashes, also upcoming from DAW) and the way they initially dueled each other in the air with pistols, and even dropped bricks on one another, before someone managed to arrange machine guns so that they didn’t shoot their own props off. Which gave me the whole Jousters premise, as well. The culture of the ancient world gave me the background of all of this, a background quite different than the usual medieval European setting of the vast majority of fantasy today. How the dragons fitted into that background would also be unique.

From there, everything just flowed. I’m excited, DAW is excited, and we think this is going to be a terrific story.
—Mercedes Lackey