The twin moons cast shadows like blood scores across the sand.
–Jane Yolen - Dragon's Blood - c.1982, 1996
Book 1 in The Pit Dragon trilogy
Austar IV started life as a prison planet, over the generations and years it has evolved into a deeply segregated, almost feudal society. Jakkin was born free, but in order to survive his mother sold herself and her son into “bond”. Every bonder wears a bag, and when they fill this bag they will be free. They will be a master. But many bonders never make it that far. Jakkin is determined that he will fill his bag himself and he has a plan. He intends to steal a dragon egg, hatch it out, and raise it to be a champion pit fighter.
Many many many years ago I caught an animated adaptation of this book on the tv. At the time I didn’t realise it was a book, but that cartoon stuck with me and when I came across the book version I had to give it a try.
It’s funny. This book is written in a very simplistic way. Almost too simplistic for the subject matter, because Jakkin is, to all intents and purposes, a slave. More in the ancient world style rather than the US type. And this slavery is an integral part of the world.
Also all the female characters seem to have served some time a prostitutes, and given that they are slaves at the time, could they really say no? So that raises all sorts of icky questions.
Plus, Jakkin is raising his dragon to fight in a pit. And while dragons have been bred and trained so that they aren’t fights to the death, there is still that possibility. And that whole notion is another off-putting aspect.
But I get the feeling that the negative aspects of this world are explored more in the other two books in the series. This one is the story of one young man learning to be a man in this world. He has to live in this world, with all its flaws and issues. Dragon’s Blood is a way for the reader to learn about this world in a small way, before Jakkin learns more and has to deal with more than just survival and getting to the pits. All his short life he has focused on that, nothing and no one will stop him. And dragon fighting, slavery and all those abuses are simply part of his world. He doesn’t see them as wrong because he doesn’t know any different.
And I liked the way although we only see the world from Jakkin’s POV we know, from his interactions with other characters, that others out there do not agree with him. There are other who fight against the world they live in. And maybe we’ll get more of that in the next book.