Dragon and Herdsman (Dragonback)
by Timothy Zahn
Publisher: Starscape (May 30, 2006)
For those who don’t feel like playing catch up: the Dragonback series is a Young Adult Science fiction series by Timothy Zahn, which follows the adventures of a young con artist/thief named Jack Morgan, and the alien warrior Draycos who has become bonded to him. Their bond is a literal, physical one; Draycos’s people, the K’da, are symbiotic creatures, incapable of surviving for long without a host to attach themselves to. When Draycos bonds with Jack in a moment of desperation, he drags Jack into a world of adventure and intrigue.
After their first adventure together, Jack and Draycos begin a long, galaxy wide quest to figure out who attacked the scouting party Draycos was part of, and why, before the rest of Draycos and his people are annihilated.
The latest book, Dragon and Herdsman, sends Jack and Draycos on an unexpected wilderness expedition, after an attempt to hack into the database of the Malison Ring mercenary company. Rescued by his former mercenary companion Alison Kayna, Jack gives her a ride to a nearby planet, only to be ambushed and forced into hiding by the arrival of a group of Malison Ring soldiers.
Ambushes and mercenaries aren’t the only thing that Jack finds on Rho Scorvi—he also discovers the Phooka, a race of creatures that bear a striking resemblance to the K’da, but lacking any apparent intelligence. On the run from the Malison ring mercenaries, Jack must also become a herdsman to a race of creatures that may be some sort of remnant of Draycos’s people.
Like many of Zahn’s books, and the Dragonback series in particular, this is fast-paced space opera at it’s height. Jack and Draycos are propelled through the wilds of Rho Scorvi with very little opportunity to catch their breath—but enough time to do some interesting introspections about the nature of Draycos, the K’da, and the Phookas. There’s a bit more development of Alison, who promises to be an interesting character in her own right, and a great deal of development of Jack, a character who gets (appropriately) more interesting with each novel in this series.
For an adult reader, this isn’t really a challenging read, nor is it necessarily deep and thoughtful. But it is fun, exciting, and filled with some great plot twists (the book ends on a great twist/pseudo-cliffhanger). If you enjoy Zahn’s work, or are just looking for a fun, light read, there are a lot worse places to start than this.