Dragonback is a sci-fi series by Timothy Zahn.
Jack Morgan is fourteen, has been framed for a crime involved with the biggest corporation this side of the Orion Arm, and is very, very alone. With the exception of his uncle Virge, a AI emulating his late Uncle Virgil, he is completely isolated. That is, until a fierce space battle occurs right above his head. When the scuffle ends in a spectacular crash for one of the ships, Jack explores the wreckage to encounters the sole survivor - a K'da Warrior Poet named Draycos. After escaping the landing party of the mysterious other fleet in the aforementioned space battle, the pair come to an agreement (albeit a reluctant one on the part of Uncle Virge, with his self centered outlook). Draycos would do his best to help clear Jack's name. In return, Jack would help Draycos save his race from a planned genocide.
This series contains examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Claws: K'da claws are sharp enough to cut through metal. And not just slash through it either; at one point Draycos uses this ability to carve a precise hole in a shuttle's hull as sabotage.
- Androcles' Lion: A variation. Draycos takes the time to spare the life of a mercenary in the first book, which Jack - used to the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished thinking of Uncle Virgil - is confused by. Draycos says he did it just because it was the right thing to do and he does not expect the mercenary to be grateful if they ever meet again. Three books later, he isn't - but he is a recognisable face in a mercenary uniform at a slave auction, meaning Jack can identify which group of mercenaries were involved in the first book.
- Jack says "Skip it." when Earth slang goes over Dracyos's head.
- Draycos saying "I am a poet-warrior of the K'da," as a Badass Boast when Jack asks if he can really do some feat or other.
- Chekhov's Skill: Draycos' poetry. At one point he needs to remember the name of a ship after seeing it written despite not being able to read the English alphabet yet. He does it by creating a poem that lets him remember the individual shapes of each letter in order and then recites it to Jack so he can figure out what the letters read.
- Child Soldiers: One book has Jack fall in with a mercenary outfit that has a number of kids among its ranks. They are indeed at one point taken into battle.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jack and Alison, who snark at each other often. Draycos can sneak some subtle snarking in as well.
- Food Chains: Panjan Gazen tries to give Jack food laced with a "squatter poison" so that he would be completely dependent on whoever buys him for the antidote he would need for survival.
- Humans Are Special: Humans turn out to be better hosts for the K'da than any other race. This is because Earth is the K'da's original homeworld and humans were their original hosts. Jack and Draycos actually develop telepathy other unique abilities because of this.
- No Sense of Personal Space: Draycos has a habit of leaping on and off Jack unexpectedly. Justified in the sense that he has to be near his host to survive past six hours.
- Our Dragons Are Different: The K'da might be a dragon race, though they don't breath fire or have wings to fly. What more than makes up for it is their ability to cling to hosts like tattoos, as they can only last six hours alone before dying. In addition, they can see through thin walls. Draycos even lampshades inside one book that both qualities would be useful to have.
- Power Tattoo: Draycos's two-dimensional form resembles a tattoo when hes attached to Jack.
- Pretentious Latin Motto: More like Pretentious Latin Ship Name, but Neverlin's personal ship is called the Advocatus Diaboli, which translates to "Devil's Advocate."
- The Reveal: Being a Zahn novel there are several. One early one is that Jack is living alone, his uncle and guardian is dead, and the 'Uncle Virge' he talks to is just a computer AI that mimics his uncle's personality.
- Trapped in Villainy: Jack Morgan wants to be Reformed Criminal, but his Uncle wants him to carry on the thieving business and his missions with Draycos requires such skills.
- The Symbiote: The K'da. Basically a tiger-sized dragon that can turn into a tattoo, and must do so at least once every six hours. The K'da gets a host, the host gets a powerful guardian, and both get the other's companionship.
- Themed Aliases: Jack Morgan always uses aliases beginning with the letter M, to make it easier to remember.
- Unusual Euphemism: Alison uses "Mother-of-pearl!" as a Gosh Dang It to Heck! version of "Mother-of-God!" (which she slips into at times when really startled).
- Warrior Poet: Dryacos still creates poems while being a warrior; the poems have become plot points at times.