Vetch has come a long way. When we first met him in Joust, he was the servant of a cruel master in his home country of Alta. One day he was picked up by a Tian Dragon Jouster named Ari and set to work as a dragon boy for his country’s enemy. Eventually he escaped with the dragon he secretly raised from an egg, flew back to his home country of Alta and, with the skills he learned from Ari, began overhauling the Altan system of raising and training dragons. Now he is called by his birth name, Kiron.
Kiron was surprised to find that his own country is not blameless in the war with Tia and the fault lies with the magi who have discovered a way to extend their own lives by causing the deaths of others (this kind of over-the-top evil is so typical of Lackey). When the magi assassinate the prince and turn against the jousters, the jousters and their dragons flee to a desert location they call Sanctuary. Soon refugees start showing up and they are not only from Alta, but from Tia, too, because the Tian mages are now also using the evil life-draining magic. Together the people of Sanctuary make plans to conquer the evil mages of both countries.
Compared to Joust and Alta, Sanctuary is rather dull. It’s mostly about the jousters’ arrival and set-up of Sanctuary. There is much description of the buildings they find in the desert, as well as all of the other amenities that they either find or build (like magic, everything they need is provided or somehow easy to acquire). There is a lot of dragon raising and training, and lots of dragons hunting for food — the same sorts of activities we witnessed in the previous books, now with some new people in a new location.
There are a couple of romances going on too, including the really annoying type where the princess can only marry someone who’s noble so he can help her rule the country and — surprise! — Aragorn the guy she loves turns out to be secretly noble and perfectly capable of helping her keep her country in control! Yay!
Eventually someone foresees something that means they need to get going with their attack on the magi, and that finally leads to some encounters with the nasty little guys. As usual, though bad things happen and lives are in danger, there is little tension and scary moments are quickly resolved. Our heroes get very lucky, as they have been throughout this series, when complicated and tricky plans just happen to work, or people happen to be in the right place at the right time, or they happen to correctly guess what their enemies will do, or important items and places are not guarded when they should be. There’s never any doubt that our heroes will succeed.
Sanctuary is not the end of the DRAGON JOUSTERS story. A fourth book, called Aerie, must be about the rebuilding of Alta and Tia after the (few) events that occur in Sanctuary. I think readers will want to know if Vetch/Kiron ever reunites with his mother and sisters and, knowing Mercedes Lackey, I’m guessing that will happen in Aerie. If Tantor Media, the publisher of the audiobook edition, sends it to me, I’ll read and review it (I like Ryan Burke’s narration) but if they don’t, I will be just fine without it.