Today's book review is Dragon and Liberator by Timothy Zahn.
This is the sixth and final book in the Dragonback series. It relies heavily on background from the previous books; if you're going to read this series, start with book 1 (Dragon and Thief) and go in order.
This is a very fast-moving, action filled book and the plot has more twists than a bowl of rotini. Through the series, I've come to care a fair bit about the protagonists, and I like how they've developed and where they end up. In a straightforward YA adventure, if it's any good, you hope to be wondering how the good guys are going to get out of the latest mess, but it's rare to really wonder if they'll get out of it, and we do achieve that much tension. On the minus side, more than one of the plot twists have a definite whiff of deus ex machina. The earlier books in the series have some really nasty cliffhangers, and we come into this book with some very unimportant questions unanswered. They are answered, and if there are a couple of places that strain the sense of disbelief, well, we need to remember just how nutty the Macguffin of the whole series is.
Anyone who's enjoyed the earlier books will definitely want to finish the series; it's probably the best, and it does tie up those nagging loose ends. For anyone who hasn't started the series, as long as you're willing to swallow a seriously improbable premise for the sake of a good romp, it's recommended. The moral messages that are a bit heavy handed at the start are more subtle, though still there.
8 out of 10.
**** PLOT HIGHLIGHTS ****
I'm not going to pretend to do a real plot summary; I'd almost have to re-read the book to get everything straight. At the beginning, Jack, Draycos, Alison, and Taneem are all together on Brummga trying to figure out where the rendezvous point, where the bad guys plan to jump the K'da fleet, is so they can do something to stop it. Things go slightly pear-shaped and they're separated; Alison and Taneem hide in the safe with the secret and get taken onto one ship, while Jack has a car accident and gets sprung from jail to the Essenay by Harper. Jack never trusts Harper, even though Harper tries hard to convince him. And since, like Alison, he's not actually playing it straight, even though he is on the good guys' side, Jack never does trust him. The schemes to prevent the rendezvous don't work. The bad guys have commandeered one of the wrecked K'da ships, fitted it with Death weapons, and plan to use it as a Trojan horse. Jack and Draycos manage to disable a couple of the Deaths but there are more, and more on other ships. Alison manages to use the life pod from Neverlin's ship as a torpedo to knock out the Brummgan troop carrier. Harper, who managed to steal the Essenay from Uncle Virge, sacrifices himself, knowingly flying into range of the Death, to provide a diversion. The K'da fleet shows up. Jack and Draycos decide the only way to warn the fleet that they're facing Death is to get the bad guys to use it on them, so they say their farewells to each other and get zapped. And live. It seems that a human/K'da team fools the Death, so as long as they're together, they're safe. This is the final confirmation that the K'da originally came from Earth; this is why Jack and Draycos (and Alison and Taneem) can do stuff that K'da/Shontine pairs never managed. Then Braxton shows up and mixes things up, and Langston (the fighter pilot rescued in the last book, who infiltrated the bad guys) takes the fighter that would have killed Jack again, and Jack and Draycos come through the ship. Together the Death can't hurt them, but the enemy arranges the tactical situation so they have to separate, but just as Jack should be getting fried again, Taneem lands on his back, Draycos gets through and disables the weapon, and it's basically over. Alison reveals that Braxton is her grandfather. Braxton arranges to have the K'da colony established on Iota Klestis, the world where it all started, which he conveniently owns, and makes Jack his ambassador to the K'da.