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Dragon's Blood by Jane Yolen
Published by Harcourt Brace
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
The planet of Austar IV was originally a penal colony, settled by convictss and their keepers. In the centuries that followed, their descendants formed a caste-based society of masters and bonders. Although this was enough to prove them removed from their criminal ancestors and earn the status of protectorate world, the remaining inequalities and stigma of criminal ancestry (indicated by the double-k brand in the name of everyone save a tiny nobility with pure guard blood) are a source of deep resentment.
But young Jakkin Stewart cares little about such issues. His most driving concern is more personal -- to win back the freedom he lost as an infant when his father was slain and his mother sold herself and her son into bondage for food. To do it by normal means, by carefully saving his meager wages, could take a lifetime of thankless toil for another and no guarantee that a mistake somewhere along the line doesn't wipe out the fruits of years of self-sacrifice.
But for Jakkin there is another way, albeit a perilous one. Among the native creatures of his world are the winged saurians known as dragons. From his slain father Jakkin has inherited the empathic talent to control these great beasts. If he can obtain one of his own and train it to fight in the arena, his winnings in a single match could buy his freedom.
But that's a big if for a small boy. Getting his own dragon means skirting the law and risking his master's wrath. Then he must raise it to fighting size without being discovered, and still keep up on his regular duties. Even if he can get his dragon to the arena, there is no guarantee it will win. A loss could leave him with a dead dragon.
But Jakkin cannot bear to give up. If he does, then he will truly be a slave.
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Review posted December 15, 2000
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