In the Volstov capital of Thremedon, Owen Adamo, the hard-as-nails ex–Chief Sergeant of the Dragon Corps, learns that Volstov’s ruler, the Esar, has been secretly pursuing the possibility of resurrecting magically powered sentient robot dragons—even at the risk of igniting another war. That Adamo will not allow. Though he is not without friends—Royston, a powerful magician, and Balfour, a former corpsman—there is only so much Adamo and his allies can do. Adamo has been put out to pasture, given a professorship at the University. Royston, already exiled once, dares not risk the Esar’s wrath a second time. And Balfour, who lost both hands in the climactic battle of the war, is now a diplomat who spends most of his time trying to master his new hands—metal replacements that operate on the same magical principles as the dragons and have earned him an assortment of nicknames of which “Steelhands” is the least offensive.
But sometimes help comes where you least expect it. In this case, from two first-year university students freshly arrived in Thremedon from the country: Laurence, a feisty young woman whose father raised her to be the son he never had, and Toverre, her fiancé, a brilliant if neurotic dandy who would sooner share his wife-to-be’s clothes than her bed. When a mysterious illness strikes the first-year students, Laurence takes her suspicions to Adamo—and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change Volstov forever.