Aerie is the fourth and final book in Mercedes Lackey’s DRAGON JOUSTERS series. This review will spoil some of the plot for the previous three books, Joust, Alta, and Sanctuary, so it’d be best to not read further in this review if you haven’t read those books yet.
I’m convinced that Aerie exists only because Lackey left a thread dangling in the third book, Sanctuary. After the bad guys were defeated and Alta and Tia were at peace, we kind of expected that our hero, Kiron, who used to be a slave but is now head of the dragon jousters, would somehow reconnect with the mother and sister he had been stolen from. That never happened, so the end of Sanctuary wasn’t completely satisfying.
Aerie addresses this problem, but this plot point isn’t enough to sustain an entire novel, so some other conflicts had to arise and be settled. Or at least that’s what it feels like — that they were manufactured just so there could be a story and they don’t follow naturally from the plots of the previous books.
One of these conflicts is a sudden and not very believable cooling off between Kiron and Aket-ten that mostly has to do with Aket-ten wanting to create an all-female squad of dragon jousters. The drama involved with this was unnecessary, Akat-ten’s personality has completely changed for the worse, and the girls were portrayed as silly and gossipy. All of this seems to undermine Lackey’s pro-girl message.
Lackey uses this episode to introduce a possible new love interest for Kiron and to reunite him with his mother. Both of these new female characters — the love interest and the mother — don’t feel real at all. Lackey spends almost no time developing them, they completely fall flat, and their interactions with Kiron are deeply unsatisfying. It would have been better if we had never met them.
The final conflict involves the introduction of a new race of utterly evil mages that we’ve never heard of before. They’re even worse than the utterly evil mages that were defeated in Sanctuary. Where did these guys come from and why are they here now? Because, like the other plot points and characters in Aerie, they were tacked on at the end. And not just the end of the series, but the end of this book. They show up fast and are defeated quickly. It’s all boring and unbelievable.
Aerie is unnecessary and disappointing. Unless you really must see Kiron and his mother reunited, I’d skip it.
If you do decide to read it, however, I recommend Tantor Audio’s version which is very nicely read by Ryan Burke. Too bad Mr. Burke couldn’t save the story from itself.