Alta: Multiple plot problems, but I want to know what happens next

Alta by Mercedes Lackey science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAlta by Mercedes Lackey

Alta by Mercedes Lackey science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAlta (2004), the second book in Mercedes Lackey’s DRAGON JOUSTERS quartet, starts where Joust left off. Vetch, formerly a slave and more recently a “dragon boy” in the land of his enemies, has escaped with the dragon he raised from an egg. They are now in Alta, the land of his birth, which has been occupied by Tia, the land he just escaped from.

Vetch (now called by his real name, Kiron) arrives with much knowledge about how Tians train their jousters, and about how to best raise and train dragons. He hopes to meet the right people and convince them to try his training methods so that, in the future, Alta will be better prepared to win their country back. He worries a bit that someday he will have to fight Ari, the Tian man who trained him.

As he starts learning more about his own country, Kiron is surprised to discover that its political structure isn’t so wonderful after all and it’s certainly not blameless in the war with Tia. A major complication arises when Kiron and his new friends start wondering about the role of Alta’s magi in the war.

Like Joust, Alta is a fast-moving simple story with a linear and somewhat predictable and sloppy plot. As before, everything falls into place for Kiron — solutions to problems come quickly and everything always works out. People are in the right places at the right time. At one point the kids make an unbelievably complicated (and kind of silly) plan to thwart their enemies. It relied on a lot of lucky occurrences. Amazingly, it worked, but in real life it wouldn’t have.

The characters are mostly off the rack and exhibit no nuance — they’re really good or really bad. The bad guys, as usual, are extraordinarily bad. Most of Lackey’s stories rely on rousing up the reader’s outrage at her bad guys. The dragons are Lackey’s best characters in this series.

My biggest complaint with Alta is similar to the one I mentioned in my review of Joust: It’s hard to believe that Kiron is the first person in Alta to come up with the ideas and methods he brings to the Altans. His dragon training methods are supposedly brilliant, but I think most of Lackey’s readers would have come up with these same ideas without taxing their brains too much. It seems unlikely that Alta’s leaders haven’t been able to come up with them and that a young teenage boy is the only one who did. In fact, all of the youngsters are wise beyond their years while most of the adults are evil or idiots.

So, there are some major problems with Alta but the story is diverting and I suppose I want to know what happens next. I will continue with book three, Sanctuary.

Tantor Audio is in the process of releasing audio editions of the DRAGON JOUSTERS novels. I really like Ryan Burke’s performance. He has a nice voice and an engaging cadence. The Alta audiobook is 14 hours long.

Published in 2004. In the second novel in national best-selling legend Mercedes Lackey’s richly-conceived new Joust series, the dragonrider Vetch escapes to Alta, the subjugated land of his birth. There, he hopes to teach his people to raise and train dragons-and build an army that will liberate his homeland.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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