Today is the one year anniversary of this blog, and a lot has happened in that time. I have made 234 blog posts discussing roughly 300 books that has been viewed 833 times by 534 visitors. I have 24 followers, most of whom are not personal friends. The most posts I’ve made in a single month was 26 (last August and October) and the fewest was 11, when I reread Safehold last November. The overwhelming majority of books have been fantasy of some kind, and Mercedes Lackey is clearly my favorite author to read and reread.
Outside of the internet, I bought a condo and moved into it, adding to conventions and general social activities to clutter up my time. I was able to finally build the library I’ve always wanted and very little is as satisfying as finally having all my reading books in a single room. (There is one shelf of books in the living room, but these are more reference material than anything else, including all my art and design textbooks as well as several prayerbooks and a few other things in those veins.)
As you may know, I started this blog with two goals in mind. The first was quite simply to keep better track of just how much I read; knowing that I always have a book and understanding that that book changes every 1-5 days are two completely different things. The closest I’ve ever come to this in the past would be back in sixth grade. You see, there were these things called Accelerated Reader tests (AR tests) that all reading classes would assign. They’d be ten questions about a book that you couldn’t answer off of Spark Notes or from a movie, and you’d get a number of AR points after completing the quiz. You could only ever take a particular test once, and if you screwed it up, that was it. Most books would be worth 6-8 points, so if your class required you to get 10 points in a single quarter, you’d need to read more than one book. Or one Harry Potter book; those averaged about 12 points apiece. Of course, each wrong answer reduced the number of points you got for the book, so it was best to go slowly and be sure of your answers.
I was in the AAA program for reading, which meant that I was an early reader and consistently read at a higher level than most students my age. So instead of needing 10 AR points a quarter, my class needed 25. But in sixth grade, I decided to do something truly silly. In the cafeteria there were bulletin boards, and one was devoted to AR point clubs. All the students who had 25 points that year, 50 points, etc. That year I decided to dominate in the area I was best suited to; I made it my goal to get 100 points every quarter, 400 points by the end of the year. This didn’t just mean reading all the Harry Potter books that existed at the time and aceing the tests, this meant consulting the big binder containing a printed list of every book that had an AR test available to find new and different books. I was surprised to find that I could not only test on random books I found in the school library such as The Yearling but also books from the basement like The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. It was, at the time, probably the biggest personal project I’d ever undertaken. And yes, if you were wondering, I did get my 400 points that year.
The second goal for me writing this blog was to have a platform where I could talk about the books I had finished. Random thoughts that come into my mind as I’m driving and reflecting, irritations that I notice anew every time I reread a novel, etc. Just a place to sit down and analyze the books, and maybe I’d be less inclined to forcibly discuss all these details with my friends. It’s an opportunity to sit down and solidify my opinion of a book, giving me a chance to reflect back on how I feel and maybe even figure out why I liked or disliked something.
I’ll admit, sometimes it’s been hard to be sure to make that blog post when it’s late at night and I’ve just gotten home. And sometimes with longer series or books I’ve read so many times it’s difficult to find something new to address. But I’m still enjoying making these posts, just as I hope you are still enjoying reading them. At this point in time, I don’t see any reason to cease. After all, if I want to post less frequently, the easy solution is to read longer books, or books that I have less interest in. Not to mention those side projects that are still taking up time. Still, I’m fairly pleased. I sort of wish I’d taken the time to total up exactly how many books I’ve read in the past year, but I don’t really want to go through over 200 blog posts just to do that. Sure I could’ve marked them on goodreads, but that’s a few extra steps that somewhat defeats the purpose of writing this blog on a different website.
Now, this wouldn’t be a blog post if I hadn’t finished a book today and, of course, I did. Given those side projects that I still have going (though I’m a third of the way through one and have made decent progress on the other), I elected for a nice, easy reread. Which means, of course, something by Mercedes Lackey. I considered something else, but I was just in more of a Lackey mood. This is Joust, book one of the Dragon Jousters.
First and foremost, Joust takes place in not!Egypt, and the protagonist is Vetch, a not!Atlantean serf. That is to say, this book takes place in the fictional country Tia, and Vetch was born in the neighboring country Alta. The two are at war with each other and when Vetch was young, the border moved past his family’s farm and they became less than slaves. I’d explain but really, the book does an excellent job of that.
It’s the dragons that seem to give the Tians such a major advantage over the Altans; they appear to have more and they’re better trained as we learn when Vetch ends up as a dragon boy in the Tian compound. The entire book takes place over the course of a bit more than a year, and gives readers a very good understanding of dragons in this world. There’s magic too, of course, but it’s largely separate from the dragons. Priests of the various gods such as Siris (Osiris), Iris (Isis), and Haras (Horus) may have special abilities on a wide range, but there’s very little magic in every day life.
You can call this one “a boy and his dragon” story, but I hesitate to do so. One reason is that I’m less immediately familiar with the tropes of that archetype, the other being that it’s Mercedes Lackey, and it’s never as simple as you might think. Even her 500 Kingdoms books are so much more than just a single fairy tale retold, and those books are far simpler than Joust.
One thing I like about how this book is structured is that, in the beginning, when Vetch first becomes a dragon boy, Lackey takes us through an entire day slowly, allowing the reader to understand what he’s doing all day long. Then, as Vetch becomes more confident with his new duties, we let slide the simpler and less plot-relevant ones. They still happen offscreen of course, but it’s not as important as what she’s showing us. Then, as the pace picks up, we see less specific instances and more generalities of what’s going on until everything grinds to a halt once more so that we can focus on the climax.
And that right there is one reason why I like writing this blog. Because, in the writing, I can really reflect and appreciate parts of books that I never noticed before. I was aware of them, yes, but more in the sense that I’m aware of the noise the AC makes until it suddenly stops blowing and then I can truly appreciate the quiet.
I do enjoy the Dragon Jouster series, as you’ll come to find, because it elicits a culture that I’m not as familiar with, but still know a fair bit about. Not to mention the fact that it’s a well-written set of books with likable protagonists by one of my favorite authors. Very solid all around, and I’m looking forward to cracking open the next one.