A seven-year-old orphan girl goes to the local well to get water. There she meets a dragon and its rider and finds the dream for her future - to become a dragoneer.
Seven years later Ileth, having run away from the orphan lodge she lived in, rushes through the dark toward the Serpentine to become a novice dragoneer but she is too late, the gates closed at sundown. Determined to gain entry or die, she sits by the door for days until she is allowed in. Thus begins Ileth’s transition from poor stuttering orphan to, hopefully, a dragoneer.
She finds allies and makes both friends and enemies as even within the walls of the Serpentine wealth and name matter and Ileth has neither. She fights a duel with her boss from the fish-gutting table, is caught being kissed by an apprentice from a wealthy family and has her name written in the Blue Book - strike one and with strike two, one is expelled from the Serpentine. She is transferred to the dragon dancer troop - dragons enjoy the aroma of the sweat of dancing women - is given charge of a sickly, ancient dragon. While there she uncovers a dragon scale smuggling operation, and finally is sent to enemy territory in a prisoner exchange to care for an ailing imprisoned dragon whose dragoneer has died.
There is love, betrayal, hope and tragedy as Ileth works towards her ultimate goal. We get hints that Ileth’s past may be more than just a poor stuttering orphan but nothing is really revealed in this book.
Ileth is a well-rounded character who will appeal to readers both young and older. The other characters are interesting, including the dragons who speak and serve the humans on their own terms. I look forward to the next chapter in Ileth’s life.
Highly recommended ~~ Stephanie L Bannon
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