Vetch the serf is no more, in his place is Kiron a young dragon rider who will enter the lands of his birth as a hero. Reclaiming his name and leaving Vetch behind is only the first challenge Kiron will face, for the land of his birth is a strange place with customs he is no longer used to, and where he will face challenges greater than any challenge in the Tian jousters compound. Kiron may have been freed of the chains of serfdom, but he has a lot to learn about acting like the freeman he now is, and it goes against everything he has learned to be arrogant and demanding - but luckily he has the example of the Tian jousters to draw on.
Through luck more than planning Kiron lands on his feet and hits the ground running in Alta, but it is not the land of milk and honey that he might have hoped for. Through his friendship with Aket-ten and her brother Orest Kiron learns that the Magi are really the ones who control Alta through power and fear, and that no one is truly safe from their power and ambitions. It is just as well that Kiron is used to hardship and keeping his own council, because it is dangerous to be outspoken in Alta, especially if you are outspoken against the Magi. Carving out a place for himself and Avatre is only the first step for Kiron, because whether he wants to be or not he is about to be dragged into a conflict against a dark and dangerous force that will do anything to stay in power. The deeper he digs the more corruption he finds, and the more he finds the more he has to loose - and the more he has to fear.
Alta follows on closely from Joust, starting where the first volume leaves off - leaving no time for breathing room as we rejoin Vetch (now Kiron) on his quest to find a place where he belongs. He has changed from the angry and resentful young serf into a young man finding himself as a warrior and nobleman after a life of wanting and needing - a seeming deception that sits heavily on his shoulders. Kiron is a young man who is not yet an adult in anyone's eyes, yet as time passes more and more lands on his shoulders, and he has to find the strength to stand up for himself and for those he cares about. The passing of time is felt, and it is clear that quite some time passes between Kiron arriving in Alta and the main action, but it is not a clearly progressed "calendar" of time - partly because of the nature of the seasons. Time passing is both a good thing and a bad time, time allows Kiron to develop friendships, to experience loss, and to grow.
The emergence of the Magi is interesting because they are so sneaky and underhanded, it takes time to peel back the layers of their deception and treachery - which means it takes time for Kiron and his friends to discover the depth of the danger. Through Alta we begin to realise that the war between Alta and Tia serves another purpose than just regaining land and honour, and we also start to see the conspiracies that hold Alta in invisible chains and the lengths Kiron and his companions may need to go to to free everyone. Joust felt very much like a fantasy world as it was heavily focused on the dragons and mythology, with Alta it feels more like a military novel with the dragons and magic becoming part of the fabric of the world rather than the centre of it.
There is a lot to like here, even though at just over 430 pages it took me a little longer to read than I was hoping! Thankfully there were no typos or formatting issues with the paperback copy I have.
If you like this book then try:
- Joust by Mercedes Lackey
- Sanctuary by Mercedes Lackey
- Aerie by Mercedes Lackey
- Graceling by Kristin Cashore
- Alien taste by Wen Spencer
- Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
- Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
- Throne of glass by Sarah J. Maas
- Tinker by Wen Spencer
- Precinct 13 by Tate Hallaway
- Prowlers by Christopher Golden
- The girl of fire and thorns by Rae Carson
- Children of the night by Mercedes Lackey
- Cast in shadow by Michelle Sagara
- Summon the keeper by Tanya Huff
- Eight million gods by Wen Spencer