Dragon & Thief by Timothy Zahn

Timothy Zahn is a well-known writer in the sci-fi community, but this is his first attempt at young adult fiction and it is an unequivacal success. This was originally pitched as a young adult series to the publisher, who apparently decided to market it as an adult series anyway. The result - a squinky little undersized 250-page hardcover, right on the heels of two 400+ page Zahn tomes in a row. I admit I was a little reluctant to shell out the cash for it, but I did anyway, because it's Zahn, and he's never let me down before. The effect of the original concept being a young-adult series seems to be that he takes all of his usual strengths and just condenses them, packing the same amount into a tighter space. His writing style doesn't seem to have been affected at all - I never felt like what I was reading was "dumbed down" or anything like that. All of the Zahn hallmarks are here - the complex and surprising plot, the human and sympathetic characters, and the taut and concise action scenes - just in a smaller space. As opposed to a cast of 20 characters, there is a cast of 2, but they're both great. Also, needless to say, the usual Zahn creativity with aliens and worlds remains - one of the main characters is a dragon thing that lives in 4 dimensions, and can either show as a three dimensional creature or two dimensional in our world. He lives wrapped around the other main character like a tattoo, and can jump off and fight at will. It's an interesting concept, and makes for an interesting character. (The first of 6 books and the series is now complete.)