Jane Yolen,
Heart's Blood
(Delacorte, 1984;
Harcourt, 1996)

Heart's Blood, the second book in Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Trilogy, picks up a year after the first book, Dragon's Blood, left off.

Jakkin is a Pit Master now, although he's far from wealthy. He has spent the year still living at Master Sarakkhan's dragon nursery, training and fighting his beautiful red dragon Heart's Blood as well as working for his keep, and he's pleased at her first clutch of eggs, anticipating the future hatchlings. Jakkin has also purchased his friend Errikkin's bond, but he is unnerved and disturbed by Errikkin's subservient and somewhat masochistic behavior. He doesn't feel like a master or a man; he isn't even sure what either is supposed to feel like.

Then a visitor comes to see Master Sarakkhan and Jakkin, a senator named Golden, who wants Jakkin's help in infiltrating the rebels on the planet. He asks him to help in the name of the only person for whom Jakkin would do anything -- Akki, the young woman who stalked out of his life a year before. Akki is also Master Sarakkhan's daughter, and the man is determined that Jakkin should help.

Yet Jakkin resists until he receives a note that could only Akki could have sent. In it, she asks "... are you a man yet? If so, I need you." With that, Jakkin's mind is made up, and he ventures to the Rokk, the huge citadel where the Major dragon pits, the rebels and Akki await. But there is more than meets the eye here, and nothing will ever be simple again. Jakkin finds that manhood can descend without warning and with little time for transition.

The story is gripping and suspenseful and uncompromisingly realistic. Bad things happen to good people, and bad people are allowed to succeed at times. Jakkin's character develops in bursts of small revelations as when he realizes that Errikkin enjoys being scolded or when he understands his former nemesis Likkarn's true nature.

The trilogy takes a startling and unexpected turn at the end, and it will be a callous reader indeed who will resist forging on to the third book, A Sending of Dragons.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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