Peterson's Ian Quicksilver fans will be glad to know that The Cursed Dagger picks up right where The Warrior's Return left off: Geeky foster kid Ian, heir to the throne of Banhir, but exiled to live on Earth, has a quest. He must convince beautiful, popular, but slightly spacey Ari -- a Garfelian princess carrying a curse of her own -- to permanently join him in order to thwart the plans of evil magician Silivus and save the galaxy.
Ari wants to, but she has... issues. Many of which even she doesn't understand.
And time is running out.
Those who have not yet read The Warrior's Return get to know Ian and Ari in a hurry as The Cursed Dagger opens with an early morning swordfight, a sick princess, and an epically craptastic first date.
Then things really heat up. Silivus, the magician responsible for Ian's and Ari's woes -- not to mention the woes of both of their home planets -- arrives in all his oily smarm. He makes Ian an offer: trade the Quest for a Challenge. Winner take all. No holds barred.
Ian knows Silivus can't be trusted, so he initially refuses to rise to the bait. But as his chances of completing the Quest grow bleaker and bleaker, Silivus ups the ante and tragedy strikes. Against the advice of his friends and mentors, and against his own better judgment, Ian agrees to the Challenge.
... Enter the dragon. And the cursed dagger, which links the dragon's life and Ari's fate to Ian far more closely than any of them realizes.
My 13 year old, dragon-obsessed daughter, adored this book. She devoured it in a weekend. (For comp reference, her other favorite series include Wings of Fire, Redwall, The Unwanteds, Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, Erin Hunter's Warriors, and, of course, Harry Potter.)
While the first Ian Quicksilver book was all about the hero's discovery of who he is, in The Cursed Dagger, Ian must determine who he wants to be. What things are worth living -- and dying -- for?
A short excerpt from Chapter 2:
“I guess I’ll pick you up at six then?”
“At my house? With my parents?” She began panic breathing in short gasps. Her eyes were wide and miniature bolts of lightning shot between her fingers. Any second and she was going to pass out. I shielded the arcs of magic from the view of a group of girls down the hall staring at us.
“Breathe,” I coaxed, tapping her shoulder a few times to release the excess energy. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
“Right,” she panted. “Not at all.”
“I can totally handle introducing myself to your parents . . .” I should have stopped at telling her it wasn’t a big deal. Ari bent double and grabbed her knees.
She sucked in air in great wheezing gulps. Whenever she freaked out like this, my ego took a beating. Regardless, I patted her on the back. Every time my hand made contact, bolts of electricity shot up my arm and numbed my fingers.
Farther down the hall, I could hear Corbin grumble in irritation. I looked up, found him through the sea of heads in the hall and shrugged. How was I supposed to know that the mention of a date would throw her into cardiac arrest?
It took a while, but her panic attack eased. When she stood upright, she was almost back to normal. Only a few red blotches on her neck remained.
“Sorry,” she said. “That was totally unexpected. I don’t know what hit me.”
“I hear chest pain and shortness of breath are totally normal in dating situations.”
“I’m probably just nervous. I have a feeling it’s not going to go so great when you meet my parents. How am I supposed to introduce you? ‘Hey, mom and dad, this is Ian. He’s an alien from another planet.’”
“You could say that I am a warrior for the galaxy. It kind of has a cool ring to it.”
“Yeah, that’ll go over great.”
[Full disclosure: I was a beta reader for IQ books 1 & 2. While it's true that Alyson & I are friends, and that the Cursed Dagger includes this gem in its Acknowledgements ~blush~...
...it's also true that the book rocks. Intrigue! Magic! Icky evil Bad Guy! Awkward first dates! Sentient horses! Plus -- and this is key -- a dragon! I might be a little biased, but I won't steer ya wrong.]