Robert Thurston,
The Legend of the Jade Phoenix
(Roc, 2003)

Way of the Clans,
Bloodname & Falcon Guard
(WizKids, 1991)

The Legend of the Jade Phoenix trilogy tells the extraordinary story of Jade Clan warrior Aidan Pryde, giving the reader a penetrating glimpse into the ways of the clan warrior from birth to death. It even takes us along for the first invasion of the Inner Sphere by the Clans. You'll find plenty of hard-hitting Battletech action served up liberally in these pages, each encounter more exciting than the last.

Clan society is built upon the central importance of warfare, and it is the dream of every child to become a warrior. Some are bred for the task, and the highest honor a warrior can achieve is the acquisition of a Bloodname and inclusion in the genetic warrior pool. The trueborn are artificially created via genetic engineering from the bloodlines of the most accomplished warriors, and these youngsters are raised and trained together from birth. Only the very best succeed, while others are killed or assigned to work among the lower castes. Freeborns, those born by natural means, also can earn warrior status, but their lower caste forbids them from fighting on the front lines.

Aidan Pryde is a trueborn who wants desperately to earn warrior status in the Jade Falcon clan to which he was born. In Way of the Clans, we follow him through the warrior training program, which culminates in the Trial that determines whether or not he will earn the right to lead a monstrous Battlemech in battle. In training, individual achievement is stressed over any sort of group mentality, and a true warrior is expected to do anything to reach his/her objectives. Alongside the unprecedented story of Aidan's perilous journey into adulthood we get insightful journal entries from the camp commander enlightening us on the theory and practice of Clan warrior society. This coming of age story is bursting at the seams with action and remarkable insights into that society, making it a truly compelling addition to the Battletech Universe.

Bloodname, the second book in the trilogy, boasts battles galore and the main characters, already well developed in Way of the Clans, continue to grow in the fullest, most intriguing of ways. Thurston delivers a penetrating study of clan society, human motivation within that society, and a type of heroism that is not limited to action on the battlefield. As a relative newcomer to the Battletech universe, I was delighted to find so many different kinds of Battlemechs involved in the action, as it gave me a most helpful footing in the technology and weapons-related tactics employed in this futuristic world.

Aidan is a remarkable protagonist. He very much wants to earn his Bloodname, but this honor is forbidden him given his new, secretly adopted existence as a freeborn warrior. Now stationed on Glory Point, Aidan finally gets a chance to engage in real combat when a contingent of soldiers from the Wolf Clan seeks to steal the genetic legacy of the base commander there. He is soon reunited with Falconer Joanna, under whom he studied in warrior training. Joanna hates him for many reasons, yet she somehow becomes a strange ally of sorts when Aidan lets the proverbial cat out of the bag. Not only does he announce the fact that he is a trueborn, he demands the right to compete for a Bloodname. The odds are stacked heavily against him, as he must face a Court of Falconers just to maintain his warrior status. Then, just to earn a spot in the Bloodname competition, he must emerge victorious from a massive melee of Bloodname hopefuls -- and, even if he wins the spot, he still faces the actual Trial of Bloodright, the actual tournament for the right to the Pryde Bloodname. There is also the added difficulty of his opponents' fiery hatred for him -- the only thing the trueborn hate more than a freeborn is a trueborn who earned his warrior status in the guise of a freeborn.

Falcon Guard completes the trilogy. Aidan Pryde, despite his amazing accomplishments up to this point, has never been able to rid himself of the taint surrounding his name. Even now that the long-awaited assault on the Inner Sphere has begun, his command has been relegated to mop-up actions far from the front lines of battle. Until now, that is. He has been given command of the Falcon Guard, a throwaway group of old warriors and insubordinate, troublesome fighters marked by a disgraceful defeat on the planet Twycross, but for Aidan this still represents a chance to fight on the front lines for the glory of the Clans against the Inner Sphere -- and to show how effective a commander he can be. With his loyal freeborn friend Horse by his side, he calls upon Falconer Joanna to whip the misfits into shape. Among his new charges is his own freeborn daughter -- although he does not know he has a daughter or, as a trueborn warrior born of artificial genetic manipulation, really even understand the concept of parenthood.

The battlefield of Tukayyid will determine the outcome of the Inner Sphere invasion; victory opens the way for the invasion of Terra itself, but defeat establishes a 15-year period during which the Clans can do nothing to advance their forces. For Aidan Pryde, it is the chance to achieve the honor he has always sought, to remove forevermore the taint attached to his name, career and genetic heritage. Thurston brings the field of battle to vivid life in these pages, offering readers a thrilling look at a massive engagement of Battlemechs and warriors in a fight for victory, pride, and heritage. It's a thrilling, satisfying conclusion to a classic Battletech storyline.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 2 October 2004

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