The unique alien made this book quite enjoyable,
and he was put to good use both as a stealth character, and as a moral
compass for the teenager in the story. The adventure was well-written,
and was often exciting. The kid-centric nature makes this a good story
for younger teens, but I found the bad guys a bit too cartoonish.
Regardless, the author, as always, writes a tale that never gets boring,
and has many interesting twists.
The concept of an alien who can exist in two- and three-dimensional form
is unique in my experience. I really liked how he could become almost
like a tattoo, and even detach parts of his body to become
three-dimensional when necessary, or even to talk to Jack. The opening
scene, where the K'da/Shondin ship arrives at their sanctuary planet,
only to fall under attack, were wonderfully written. Told from Draycos'
point of view, it had all sorts of backstory built in, and the terror
and disappointment that came from being discovered after all that time.
Most of the book takes place from Jack Morgan's point of view, and
while it provides a lot of action and development of this character, I
didn't find it as interesting as the few chapters told from Dracos'
point of view.
Draycos is a K'da warrior-poet, which comes in
handy several times. Jack is a retired thief, at least that's what he
keeps trying to convince himself. He used to travel with his uncle, who
was a master con-man and thief, but who was killed on their last scam.
Now he lives alone on his uncle's ship, with his uncle's recorded
personality downloaded into the ship's computer. Uncle Virge sounds a
lot like his Uncle Virgil would have, with all sorts of quirks and
personality deficiencies. I really liked the way the author sowed
confusion about who these adults were, making us wonder why Jack had two
uncles with almost the same name and personality. It was only when
Draycos entered the picture that we discover he's not a real person.
Draycos lies dying on his crashed ship when Jack arrives, and he
takes the chance that humans would be good hosts. The K'da can only live
about six hours without attaching themselves to living beings, so it's
not much of a choice for him. In exchange for this lifeblood, Draycos
provides a huge advantage for Jack, in terms of protection and stealthy
It doesn't take long for Draycos to
recharge, as right away they are discovered by the orbital attackers,
and have to flee the crashed ship. Jack was there to salvage some
technology, but instead ends up using Draycos as a life saver, as the
dragon can jump huge distances and stretch lengthwise, such as between
the ship and a tree. Speaking of trees, I really liked the description
of the crash site, with the piled earth and shocked trees.
to Draycos, they leave the planet in one piece, and make their way to
find out who set up the attack, because the K'da come from a distant
part of the galaxy, and nobody except their contact should have known
they were coming -certainly not their mortal enemies, with a weapon that
can kill from a distance through the hull of an armored spaceship.
Before Jack can help Draycos, however, he needs to clear his name.
He doesn't know why he was framed for losing a cargo, but it probably
has something to do with his late uncle's profession. They make it to
the planet where Jack picked up a cargo to pay his bills, and find that
the missing cargo was actually composed of dry ice, so it sublimated in
the ship's hold, and escaped into the atmosphere. They are attacked
first by a group of scavenger animals, which Draycos easily defeats in a
fit of K'da rage, and then by the people who obviously set Jack up.
The bad guys work for Braxton Universatis, but we find out later
that they are part of a plot to kill the founder of the company. Uncle
Virge is forced to leave, so Jack and Draycos are left alone to fend for
themselves for a while. The funniest part of the book takes place at
this point, as Jack poses as a children's entertainer for an alien
celebration, and Draycos joins in.
All throughout the book, Jack
is wary of his new symbiote, sometimes resentful, and at other times
expecting the dragon to leave as soon as he finds somebody better. It
isn't the focus of the book, fortunately, because it gets a little
annoying at times. But Jack is a fourteen year old kid who has
abandonment issues, so it's a normal feeling. I just found that it
cropped up at the strangest times. It looks like Jack is a good kid, who
ended up with an uncle who didn't give him the best start to life. On
the other hand, he also gave Jack some very useful survival skills,
including distraction abilities, and observation skills.
are captured by the bad guys, and brought to a Braxton
spaceship, where Jack is told to get his uncle to a luxury cruise liner
to steal a cylinder, and replace it with a different one. Having no
uncle alive, Jack improvises. He does a good job of the theft, first
staking out the vault, making up stories and excuses, the kind only kids
can do where adults see them as nuisances or unable to comprehend the
Draycos shows his poet skills in finding out the
name of the ship where they were taken to after their capture, when Jack
was unconscious. Not knowing the language, he describes the letters in
poem form, which was actually quite funny. The name doesn't mean
anything to Jack, but it will become important when Draycos convinces
Jack to return the stolen cylinder to its owner, who turns out to be
none other than the founder of Braxton Universatis.
realize this book was a teen-reader's series until this point, because
most of it was well-written and enjoyable for just about anyone. But
looking back, I recognize that several markers pointed in this
direction, which I completely missed. There is of course the fact that
the main character is a teen, but the bad guys are what unfortunately
mark this as meant for a younger age group.
point, it looks like Draycos' plan backfires, because the bad guys are also on board the cruise ship, and when their plan falls
apart, they decide to take Braxton and Jack to an airlock to kill them.
This part of the plan felt most of all like a children's book,
unfortunately, and the bad guys became more cartoonish, and fell into bad
stereotypes. At one point, they get so mad at Jack for trying to escape
(a distraction, really, to get Draycos free of his body), and they
threaten to kill him. But they'd rather kill him by throwing him out an
airlock than shoot him. Later, as he's waiting for Draycos to act, he
stalls them by talking endlessly. The bad guys are so inept at this
point that they listen to him, instead of just shoving him into the
It buys them enough time for Draycos to cut the lights
and attack, killing the main bad guys and wounding the others. Braxton is grateful,
but is still a ruthless businessman, so wants to find out everything
about Jack, his uncle, abilities, and the strange symbol Draycos etched
onto his cylinder. In exchange, Braxton gives Jack fuel credits for his
ship, and clears his name of theft and murder, both of which were setups
to get at Jack's uncle.
So the story will continue, as Jack
agrees to help Draycos find out who ambushed his people. There is a
fleet of K'da colony ships waiting at a staging area, wondering where
their scout ships are. With the captured K'da ships from the ambush,
their enemies are probably already on the way to the rendezvous. There
are five more books to this series, so Jack and Draycos better hurry.
And I'm sure the people they foiled in this book will be on their tails.