One of the two protagonists of the series, Julius is an oddity: a nice dragon. His family has always regarded him as a rather embarrassing failure. In the first book, his mother has sealed him in his human form and sent him to the DFZ to either shape up or die—and she doesn't much care which.
- Actual Pacifist: Julius doesn't like violence, full stop. At first he's merely uncomfortable with it, but as the series progresses he rejects it outright.
- Basement-Dweller: Dragon equivalent—Julius lives in Heartstriker Mountain when all of his siblings have left home, in the low-status overflow section. At least, until his mother kicks him out right before the series starts.
- Guile Hero: As a weak dragon who also disapproves of using force on moral grounds, Julius relies on his wits to survive and achieve his goals.
- The Heart: Julius is always the one to look for a peaceful solution, or to tell his more morally gray allies not to cross a line. He believes in teamwork and friendship, and he's slowly managing to convert part of his species.
- Insistent Terminology: Julius is very careful not to call Marci his human—she's his mage and partner.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: He values kindness, trust, and friendship, things most dragons hold in contempt. By the third book, he's frequently called "Julius the Nice Dragon". His win-win style of negotiation turns out to work surprisingly well in dragon politics.
- Nice Guy: Julius is genuinely kind and nice to everyone, behavior so strange for his species that his relatives see him as a freak of nature—albeit an unexpectedly useful one.
- Opinion Flip Flop: Dragons tend to go whichever way the wind is blowing. In the third book, all of J-clutch insists that their years of torturing Julius were just to make him stronger.
- Turn the Other Cheek: Julius is willing to forgive—if not forget—because the way he sees it, someone has to let a killing offense go before the killing can stop. Admittedly, letting Gregory beat him nearly to death in front of the whole clan was taking it a bit far
but then again, Julius had no chance of actually beating him and very little of escaping, so the moral victory of refusing to fight was all he could really hope for.
- Fortunately, every dragon watching is simultaneously impressed with Julius' unflinching determination to stand up for his beliefs, even if it means dying for them, and disgusted with Gregory's willingness to continue savaging Julius long after it's crystal-clear that he will not fight.
- Red Baron: As the "failure" of his clan, Julius lacks one to begin with. He picks up "the Nice Dragon" as an informal nickname, and as of the final book has finally earned his titles: Julius the Peacemaker, Dragon of Detroit.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock: As the first book begins, Julius's mother has sealed his dragon, trapping him in human form.
- Strong Family Resemblance: All Heartstrikers resemble each other to an extent, but Julius is apparently the spitting image of his long-dead grandfather, the Quetzalcoatl. Even The Black Reach comments that his grandfather was one of the wisest clan heads of the original dragons who fled from their home, and compares Julius favorably to him.
- White Sheep: As the kind, gentle peacemaker in a family of bloodthirsty, backstabbing monsters, Julius is definitely this.
The other protagonist, Marci is a socratic thaumaturge and all-around magic geek who resents that humans have lost most of their magical knowledge while the dragons and spirits of the world still remember it all. Her father was murdered immediately before she finished her degree, forcing her to go on the run from the mob boss who ordered his death.
- Anti-Hero: Unlike Julius, she's willing to kill for both survival and revenge.
- Black Magician Girl: She uses a lot of offensive magic; her signature attack is her "microwave" spell, and she's capable of binding powerful spirits.
- Back from the Dead: It's heavily implied that to become a full Merlin, Marci has to die and be resurrected, since Ghost is a spirit of the dead. She's halfway there; the epilogue of the third book shows her in the afterlife.
- Constantly Curious: About magic. Marci's primary motive is finding out more about magic, and she is constantly chasing new leads and trying to uncover more lost knowledge of human magic. Whenever she meets someone who knows more than she does, she pounces and asks endless questions—even though some of these people are very, very dangerous to her.
- Curiosity Is a Crapshoot: Immediately after she came to the DFZ, Marci discovered what she believed to be a death spirit of cats—something completely new to magical knowledge, as only human death spirits had been known before. In the hopes of learning more (and maybe writing an acclaimed paper) she bound the spirit to herself purposefully. As nearly everyone points out to her afterwards, this was an incredible risk—Ghost could have been malevolent, and was clearly dangerous, as he had nearly killed someone before Marci found him. But to her, the risk was worth it to learn more about magic. And as it turns out, her relationship with Ghost could lead either to her own messy destruction, or to her finding all the knowledge she's ever dreamed about—filling both sides of this trope.
- Defeating the Undefeatable: She and Ghost take down Vann Jeger, an ancient spirit known as the Death of Dragons.
- Deuteragonist: She's introduced after Julius (not counting prologues), but has equal importance in the series.
- Fake Defector: In Book Three, she pretends to go over to Algonquin's side so that the spirit will spare Julius. It gets her killed, although there are hints that this is not a permanent condition for her.
- Revenge: In the first book, Marci is seeking revenge on her father's murderer. And when she gets her chance, she doesn't hesitate.
Julius's family, the descendants of the late Quetzalcoatl, are arguably the most powerful dragon clan in the world—and definitely the most populous. The current clan head, Bethesda the Heartstriker, rules her hundreds of children with an iron fist. They're based out of Heartstriker Mountain in Arizona.
- Badass Family: They're all dragons, many of them hundreds of years old, and most of them are legitimately terrifying. Now if they could just work together long enough to achieve something...
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: At least four hundred strong, and very, very screwed up. It comes as a surprise that the eldest siblings—or at least Bob, Amelia, and Chelsie—are actually fond of each other.
- The Clan: Technically they're a nuclear family, and with a single mother at that. In practice, each clutch was raised separately (usually by older siblings rather than their mother) and many don't even know their much older or younger relatives.
- Disappeared Dad: Each of Bethesda's clutches had a different father, none of whom are ever mentioned by name. Bethesda's own father is known, but she has a Missing Mom instead.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: It's very heavily hinted that F-clutch, who Bethesda has treated as abused servants for their entire lives, are actually Chelsie's biological offspring.
- Promotion to Parent: Bethesda delegates raising her clutches to her older offspring, and even before that was likely the usual case, Chelsie effectively raised the F-clutch and Bob says that Amelia was far more like a mother to him than Bethesda ever was.
- Shared Unusual Trait: Their green eyes; especially odd considering that dragons usually inherit their eyes from their father. They are actually a result of a spell Bethesda casts on every clutch before they hatch. They let her know when her children are lying.
- Strong Family Resemblance: They're instantly recognizable in part due to the famous "Heartstriker green" eyes and black hair.
- The Unfavorite: Bethesda's favor is unreliable, but her dislike is not. Notable Unfavorites include Julius himself and the entire F-clutch, who Bethesda has trapped in their human forms and treated as servants since birth.
- Virtue Is Weakness: Due to Bethesda's teachings, most of the family believes this. Strong dragons are arrogant, violent, and quick to kill. Anything else gets you eaten. Bethesda even uses her murder of her own father as an example; the only reason it was possible was because he loved her and doted on her (Bob calls it the Quetzalcoatl's only flaw). As the books wear on, however, it becomes increasingly clear that the clan is strong despite this policy, not because of it. Conrad even says that the only reason any of the younger Heartstrikers are alive is because he and Chelsie are extremely merciful.
Bethesda the Heartstriker
Julius's mother and the head of the family, Bethesda is a vain, cruel, capricious—but powerful and clever—dragoness. Centuries ago, she killed her father, the Quetzalcoatl himself, and usurped his power. She rules the clan with an iron fist, and lives in the fear that one of her children will someday do to her as she did to her own father.
- Attention Whore: She's been a regular on Marlin Drake's talk show for fifty years, and forced her children to watch every episode where she appeared.
- Evil Is Petty: She's essentially enslaved Chelsie for centuries, because she embarrassed herself in the process of saving Chelsie's life and holds it against her.
- Evil Matriarch: She rose to power largely through coordinating the actions of her children; she treats those she doesn't favor terribly, and her favor is highly unreliable.
- Ironic Name: "Bethesda" either means "House of Mercy" in Aramaic or "House of Kindness" in Hebrew. Neither describe her at all. Her name makes more sense in light of the fact that her father doted on her.
- It's All About Me: Bethesda is nothing if not self-centered.
- Offing the Offspring: She frequently threatens to kill her children (usually Julius), and has in fact killed and ordered the deaths of many including all of Amelia's full siblings, because her first clutch was the biggest threat to her.
- Pride: Bethesda's defining trait. She would rather allow one of her more useful children to die than say the word "Please," because as far as she's concerned, that would be lowering herself. Her ego is her highest priority.
- Properly Paranoid: Zigzagged. It's true that many of her children would love to kill her—either in order to take her place, or simply because she's made their lives hell. But the one she considers the greatest threat has no interest in ruling a dragon clan, and the dragons she considers beneath her notice repeatedly manage to thwart her.
- Red Baron: The clan takes its name from her title, which she earned by killing her father.
- Self-Made Orphan: She killed her father, as well as two older brothers (her mother is never mentioned). She's paranoid that one of her children will eventually do the same to her.
- Sore Loser: To no one's surprise. She spends a lot of time trying to claw her way back to power, and when that finally fails, she spends days sulking in her rooms without talking to anyone.
Bethesda's father, who she killed to take control of the clan. He was among the last survivors of the original group of dragons that came from their home plane to this one, and possibly the only one of them to remain awake during the magic drought. Although Julius believes him to have been a blood mage on a massive scale, he was also a wise dragon who left a positive impression on his two oldest surviving grandchildren.
- Dead Guy on Display: Bethesda keeps his massive skull suspended from the ceiling of her throne room, as a reminder of her power. Note that dragons naturally turn to dust when they die, so keeping the Quetzalcoatl's bones intact required magical intervention.
- Doting Grandparent: He loved his children, but he was delighted with his grandchildren. He was careful to teach them about the world dragons came from to make sure they would never repeat the same mistakes.
- Good Is Not Nice: From what Amelia and Bob say, he was a wise ruler, doting grandfather, shrewd negotiator, and ruthless fighter. In fact, Julius is favorably compared to him a few times.
- Hidden Depths: The Fangs of the Heartstriker go to dragons that match various aspects of the Quetzalcoatl's personality. The fact that Julius ends up with one of them shows that he had a diplomatic side and was reluctant to see his family members die, which makes him a true rarity among dragons.
- Horrible Judge of Character: According to Bob, his only real flaw was trusting Bethesda. It of course got him killed.
- Personality Powers: The Fangs of the Heartstrikers kept the legacy of the Quetzalcoatl by choosing their wielders based on their personalities.
- Justin, a bold unyielding fighter, attains the fang that gives him the famous green fire of their grandfather.
- Conrad, who holds honor and the old dragon customs seriously, wields a fang that turns into an immense suit of armor.
- Chelsie being bound by Bethesda to serve and protect her clan members without question wields the Defender's Fang which allows her to know every clan member's location and teleport to them.
- A hidden fang held by Bob, a prodigious genius and Seer of the Heartstrikers, manifests an anti-magic shield enough to break strong wards, block pure dragonfire, and protect against magical fallout..
- Bethesda, the domineering clan head of the Heartstrikers, wields a fang that controls every other fang and sends them to her location, with the notable exception of...
- The final fang, the Fang of the Diplomat, which freezes every Heartstriker with killing intent.
- Posthumous Character: Due to having been murdered by his daughter many centuries ago.
Amelia the Planeswalker
Julius's oldest surviving sister, the last survivor of Bethesda's first clutch and therefore the heir to the clan—a position that she wants nothing to do with, not that her mother will ever believe her about that. Since Bethesda earned her position by killing her own father and is convinced that her children will do the same to her if she lets them, Amelia has been dodging Bethesda's assassination attempts for centuries—usually by the simple method of not being on the same plane of reality as her mother. Unlike the rest of her family, she has brown eyes.
- The Alcoholic: Amelia is rarely seen without alcohol in the vicinity. Both Chelsie and Justin bring up her addiction as a reason she would make a poor clan head.
- The Archmage: She's the most powerful dragon mage alive, which makes her the most powerful mage on the planet.
- Black Sheep: Amelia may be powerful and ruthless, but she's also totally unambitious and uninterested in cutthroat dragon politics. As a result, she doesn't fit in with her family at all.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Her family sees her as this, but with humans. She used to have an entire village of "her humans" back in the day.
- Insistent Terminology: She wants Marci to be her treasure. As Marci points out, that's just a fancy way of saying property, but to Amelia there is indeed a difference.
- Parental Substitute: To Bob, since even before overthrowing her father Bethesda wasn't interested in her children's welfare. It's part of the reason they're so close.
- Morality Pet: In a very weird way, she's this to Bob. They're both ancient and amoral dragons, but she's the one person he definitely, genuinely cares for. Not that that prevents him from killing her to see both of their plans to fruition.
- Supernaturally Young Parent: Well, more like supernaturally old child, but yes. Due to spending time on other planes where time flows differently, Amelia is significantly older than her mother.
- Unskilled, but Strong: Compared to her great rival Svena, she has the edge in power but lacks subtlety—but that's only compared to Svena. Compared to everyone else in the world—especially her relatives, who are notoriously terrible at magic—Amelia's doing very well indeed on both fronts.
- Unsportsmanlike Gloating: After she comes back from the dead as the God of Dragons, rendering herself completely beyond Svena's power, she laughs in Svena's face. Loudly.
Bob | Brohomir, Great Seer of the Heartstrikers
Bethesda's oldest son and the sole survivor of the second clutch, Bob is the clan's seer—one of only three in the world. As such, he's one of his family's greatest assets—although many of them are convinced that rather than subtly orchestrating their fates with seemingly random actions, he's genuinely insane. In the first book he takes an interest in Julius, seemingly for the first time.
- Chessmaster: He orchestrates most of the events of the series. Julius is his favorite tool, since his strange-for-a-dragon personality means that he's unpredictable to any of them who can't actually see the future.
- Gambit Roulette: Unlike most seers, he's not worried as much about specific plans. Instead, he invests in individuals who he knows will act the way he needs them to. This is why he is able to continue his machinations even when something comes up that he can't actually see.
- Obfuscating Insanity: Many of his relatives are convinced that Bob went insane centuries ago. He's certainly very eccentric, delights in annoying his siblings and often does random things like giving them all used hubcaps for their birthdays—but as time goes on, it becomes clear that much of the eccentricity is a calculated act, Bob's way of diverting suspicion from his actions.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: If Bob drops the goofy act, watch out.
- Pragmatic Villainy: Everything he does—building Julius into an effective leader, helping Marci become the first Merlin, turning the clan into a democracy, reuniting Chelsie with the Qilin—is all to save himself from the Black Reach. He knew the only way to win was to create a future good enough that the Black Reach wouldn't want to kill him. He told Julius multiple times that he's not a good dragon; that's why Julius had to be the linchpin of the plan rather than Bob himself. Bob was just too selfish to get the job done.
- Seeing Through Another's Eyes: He has some ability to see through the eyes of those he has "chosen." At one point, Bob asks Chelsie to show Julius something so that Bob can see, and Chelsie reminds him she can just show Bob directly.
- Seer: One of the three dragon seers, able to see the vast array of possible futures.
- Trickster Mentor: To Julius, and to a much lesser extent, Marci as well. For example, he manipulated the events of the third book to help Julius become an effective leader—including letting him get beaten almost to death so that Conrad would intervene and give his tacit support to the new regime, and giving Julius advice he knew Julius would never take, in order to break his trust in him.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Seers are said to often eventually lose their minds in the face of their powers, so many in the clan are convinced that this has already happened to Bob. The only reason it never happened was his pigeon — whose future he couldn't see — kept him company throughout his journey.
Chelsie, Bethesda's Shade
Bethesda's second surviving daughter, Chelsie is the clan enforcer and boogieman. She hates her job, but does it with grim efficiency.
- Break His Heart to Save Him: How her relationship with the Golden Emperor ended. She believed that if he knew her true motivations he would destroy himself as well as her entire clan, so she convinced him that she had never cared about him.
- Big Brother Is Watching You: Part of the way she keeps her relatives in line is by convincing them that she is always, always watching.
- The Dragon: To Bethesda, unwillingly.
- The Dreaded: Bethesda has kept the clan in line in large part through their absolute terror of Chelsie.
- Hidden Depths: Originally she's presented as the terrifying, implacable clan enforcer who Julius barely knows but is absolutely terrified of. Gradually, though, Chelsie reveals that—while she cares little if at all for human lives—she's not at all the heartless killer she's reputed to be. She hates killing young dragons, goes to great lengths to protect the weakest members of the clan, and is genuinely attached to her family. She's also the only dragon in the family besides Julius who dislikes putting others in her debt (debts being the main currency among dragons). As a consequence, she also hates her job and is only doing it because her mother forced her into the position.
- Teleporters and Transporters: Her Fang allows her to teleport to any member of her family (usually, directly behind them, although she dispenses with that for the ones who are aware of her power). It's what she uses to keep tabs on everyone at once.
- Red Baron: Bethesda's Shade.
- Protectorate: She's extremely protective of the F-clutch, since they're forbidden from defending themselves from their relatives and are almost certainly actually her children, not Bethesda's. She even lets them live with her. She also spends a lot of time trying to protect Julius, at first because he's essential to Bobs plans, and later because she genuinely likes him.
- Not So Different: Turns out the terrifying clan enforcer has a lot in common with the youngest failure. For example, both Chelsie and Julius hate debts and refuse to invoke them, putting themselves at a severe disadvantage among dragons.
Conrad, First Knight of the Mountain
The other survivor of the C-clutch is the biggest dragon in the clan, and as Bethesda's knight and bodyguard, he is—along with Chelsie—one of the bedrocks of her power. Thanks to his strength, his position as Clan Champion, and his traditional nature, many of the clan see him as an ideal to imitate—particularly Justin.
- Armored Dragons: When he transforms, his Fang covers him in plates of bone-white armor.
- Blood Knight: Conrad openly welcomes the prospect of war, seeing it as a chance to prove the clan's strength and weed out the ranks.
- Blue and Orange Morality: As the one high-ranking dragon in the clan who actually cares about traditional draconic values, he qualifies as this. Fight someone and kill them? Fine. Kill someone by treachery, without a fight? Also fine. Fail to kill someone who's not fighting back, or beat up someone smaller and weaker instead of just killing them? Unacceptable.
- Hidden Depths: Bethesda's bodyguard has been hoping for her oldest daughter to overthrow her for centuries. Also, he's a pillar of draconic tradition who ends up supporting Julius because of that: he respects Julius for his resolve, and holds Gregory in contempt for beating on a smaller opponent who won't fight back. (Killing him immediately would have been fine; trying and failing, not so much.) And as he puts it, mercy is the privilege of the strong, and the rest of the clan is only still alive because he and Chelsie have been exercising that privilege for a very, very long time.
- Informed Attribute: He's supposed to be one of the biggest best and most dangerous fighters in the clan, along with Chelsie. But he spends the entire second book Brainwashed and Crazy, with the outcome of every fight dictated by seer magic.
- Might Makes Right: Conrad values strength above all else. He'll support whatever he believes will make the clan stronger.
- Undying Loyalty: Not to any one person, but to the clan itself.
Senator David Heartstriker
The only dragon ever elected to the United States Senate. He's briefly mentioned in the second book; in the third, he has a larger role.
- Birds of a Feather: He's very much Bethesda's kind of dragon, and therefore gets on with her very well even though they both know he's been plotting her demise for some time.
- Faux Affably Evil: His reasonable, trustworthy facade is just that, but it's a very good one and has served him well in his profession.
- I Owe You My Life: Like most dragons, David takes a life debt very seriously. After he tries to kill Julius in the clan infirmary, Chelsie hauls him off to be publically executed in the family dining room. Julius stops her, which leaves David with a life debt to him. For once, Julius actually cashes in, telling David to help him establish a functional system of government for the clan.
- Graceful Loser: He makes a point of congratulating his opponents should they win. Sometimes his thanks come with a hidden knife, but not always.
- The Man Behind the Man: To Gregory in the third book, while Bethesda is this to him.
- The Starscream: Bethesda considered him her likeliest threat after Amelia—and he actually was plotting to kill her and take the clan. The two of them joke about it with no apparent hard feelings.
The oldest of the F-clutch, and Bethesda's personal tailor until she made him Julius's aide. He resents the servitude that has been forced on him and his siblings, and supports Julius because changes in the clan can only benefit them.
- The Big Guy: Turns out that his dragon form is big, even considering his age.
- The Champion: He ends up bearing the Defender's Fang after Chelsie gives it up, as he's pretty much the only other person in the clan actually interested in defending it.
- Hidden Depths: Quickly enough revealed, but Fredrick is definitely not what he looks like at first glance. Under the stoic exterior, he's by far the most rebellious of his clutch, and far from being loyal to Bethesda, he's willing to throw in with Julius at the first hint that he might be able and willing to change the clan in any way.
- I Owe You My Life: After Julius frees F-clutch, Frederick returns to serve Julius as payment for the entire clutch. Julius tries to turn him down, but Frederick refuses to allow such a massive debt go unpaid.
- The Jeeves: Not his usual job, but he plays the part very well. He's very dedicated to the rules of propriety and seems aghast when Julius breaks them—even though those rules really don't benefit him or his siblings.
- Non-Action Guy: Like the rest of the Fs, he's forbidden to attack any Heartstriker—even if they attack him first.
- Not So Stoic: Fredrick is usually calm and controlled, but he's openly delighted when Julius promises that he'll set the Fs free.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Bethesda has kept him sealed in his human form for his entire life, along with the rest of his clutch.
Bethesda's aide and secretary, the oldest female F.
Gregory, Terror of the Amazon
An established member of the clan who has a very low opinion of Julius.
- Bullying a Dragon: He tries to kidnap Marci to use her as leverage against Julius. Marci, the nascent Merlin. It goes poorly for him.
- The Brute: He's none-too-bright muscle serving the plans of more important villains.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Winning side to Julius (who runs and dodges rather than fighting back, for both practical and ideological reasons). He then flees the clan rather than be on the other side of the equation with Conrad.
- Dumb Muscle: He's got a brain, presumably, but we don't see any particular evidence of it. Gregory prefers to count on his strength rather than try to think through his problems.
- The Exile: Bethesda releases him from the clan so that he won't be subject to Julius's power. Conrad makes this exile permanent. The final book reveals that he has taken shelter with the clanless dragons, whose leader Marlin Drake promises he will make no more trouble for his former family.
- Hypocrite: He's eager enough to tell Julius that a dragon should be willing to die with dignity rather than run away, but when Conrad throws his words back in his face, Gregory chooses to run rather than die and be posthumously reinstated to the clan.
- Red Baron: "Terror of the Amazon." Mostly used by Gregory when introducing himself, which is a hint that he's not nearly as formidable he thinks he is.
- Smug Snake: He's dangerous, but he has a bad habit of underestimating his opponents that means he's not nearly the threat he thinks he is. First he tries to kidnap Marci and fails spectacularly, then he tries to kill Julius, loses his temper because Julius is too good at dodging, and tries to beat him to death—finally spurring Conrad, whom Gregory had apparently forgotten was watching, to take a stand at last.
Although Ian is a fairly young dragon, just a clutch older than Julius himself, he's much more classically successful—both in his day job as a cutthroat businessman and in his personal life, where he is wooing the much older, much more powerful Svena of the Three Sisters.
- Ambition Is Evil: Subverted. Ian is totally driven by his ambitions, but this is actually what makes him eventually come around to Julius's side: the reforms Julius is pushing for the clan will allow younger dragons to take more power, and that includes Ian. He's also willing to release the F-clutch from their slavery because he's too practical to see the value in a blatant Kick the Dog move by his mother.
- I Gave My Word: Ian is always willing to see through his end of a bargain.
- MayDecember Romance: He's barely in his second century, in early adulthood by draconic standards. Svena is thousands of years old.
- One True Love: His relationship with Svena is basically a long-term, mutually beneficial business partnership, but by dragon standards that's an epic romance.
Justin, Fifth Blade of Bethesda
If Julius is at the bottom of J-clutch, Justin is unquestionably at the top. As a combat prodigy, Knight of the Mountain, and the wielder of the Fifth Fang of the Heartstriker, he's an important dragon in the clan despite his young age. He's also been Julius's protector since they first hatched; despite being polar opposites, they're actually very close.
- Big Brother Worship: Towards Conrad, the clan champion and second-oldest surviving Heartstriker brother. All the more notable because Conrad is the only dragon other than Chelsie to point out that Justin isn't ready for the jobs he's taking on—Justin doesn't believe him, but he also doesn't hold it against his idol.
- Big Eater: He constantly eats huge quantities of food. It's eventually revealed that this is a draconic healing mechanism, but Justin probably also just likes to eat.
- Blood Knight: Justin loves to fight, and spends a large part of the third book seeking out duels with mixed success.
- The Resenter: Towards Chelsie. He dislikes her for treating him as an overconfident adolescent rather than the uber-badass he believes himself to be.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With Julius. Justin is a bold, brash warrior, utterly confident in his own skill; Julius is a terrible fighter, who relies on his wits to survive. Justin is one of his mother's favorites, and Julius is the child she thinks least of. Despite all of that, they're extremely close; as the series begins Justin is probably Julius's one true ally in the clan, and they would both go to great lengths to help each other.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Pizza. To the extent that at one point Julius is able to track him down via his pizza delivery orders.
- The Worf Effect: He's a "savant of violence", but still goes down quickly to both Chelsie (in the first book, when he makes the mistake of transforming in the DFZ) and Vann Jeger (in the second book, when he foolishly challenges Algonquin's dragon hunter). Justified in that, while he's a very good fighter, he's also very young and inexperienced, and both of those opponents have centuries of experience fighting dragons.
Julius's arrogant clutchmate, a doctor who lives in the DFZ.
- Dropped a Bridge on Her: Between the second and third books, Algonquin finally purges the DFZ and kills the dragons she knows have been hiding there in human form. Jessica doesn't make it out.
- Satellite Character: She appears only twice, and briefly at that; her role is basically to be the J-clutch member with a place in the DFZ.
Felicity is the youngest member of F-clutch, born six hundred years after her siblings. Her egg was a dud, technically viable but eternally unhatching, kept alive by Chelsie's magic. She's also the first female dragon born after Estella's death, and thus the next female dragon seer.
- Birth/Death Juxtaposition: It's not instantaneous, but Bob hatches her immediately after killing Amelia, using the remnants of a dead dragon's flame.
- Child Prodigy: She can take a human form straight out of the egg, something not even Amelia could do.
- Seer: The timing of her birth means that she will be one eventually, but precocious though she is, she's much too young to use those powers.
- Supernatural Gold Eyes: Has these, like her father the Qilin and all her siblings. She's also much more magically gifted than the great majority of her clan.
Daughters of the Three Sisters
The Heartstrikers' rival for the title of the most powerful dragon clan in the world. It is not a coincidence that they are the only two clans with seers. While many of the Heartstrikers dismiss their seer as insane, the Daughters of the Three Sisters have lived under the total control of theirs for their entire lives, as she is the acting head of the clan.
- Amazon Brigade: Every member of the clan is female, all are ancient dragons, and most are powerful sorceresses as well. And, as dragons, it goes without saying that they are all very good in a fight.
- An Ice Person: They specialize in ice magic.
- Foil: To the Heartstrikers. They're set up as opposites in every way: a small clan that focuses on magic, comparatively devoid of infighting because they see no point in defying their seer, and even based in freezing Siberia as opposed to hot Arizona.
- Hypocrite: Svena and Estella look down on Bethesda for her many clutches, but their mothers have actually had more, twelve to her ten—it's just that they also produced only one egg at a time. (And of course, did so with magic, and without involving any male dragons in the process.)
- Strong Family Resemblance: Enough that Julius has trouble telling them apart, aside from the few he knows well. Svena's whelps also share the family blue eyes, despite the fact that most dragons inherit that from their father.
The Three Sisters
The mothers and heads of the clan, who have been asleep since the start of the magic drought.
- The Dividual: They're treated as essentially one character; no individual traits are ever mentioned, and they speak as one.
- The Dreaded: They're considered the most powerful dragon mages ever—yes, even stronger than Amelia. Even their own daughters seem terrified of them.
- No Name Given: Their individual names have yet to be mentioned.
- Mama Bear: One of the few things known about them is that they're protective of their daughters, and especially their "jewel", Estella the Northern Star. As proved when they awaken in response to her death.
- The Worf Effect: They go down instantly to show how dangerous Algonquin really is.
Estella the Northern Star
The oldest Daughter of the Three Sisters, and the acting head of the clan. She's also the current female dragon seer. As such, she is Bob's longtime opponent.
- Big Bad: Of the first two books, before ceding the title to Algonquin.
- Catchphrase: "We are the daughters of gods."
- Control Freak: She micromanages every detail of her sisters' lives.
- Chessmaster: Like Bob, but not quite as good at it. She orchestrates the events of the first two books, only to be outwitted by him in the end.
- Fatal Flaw: Her pride and rigidity are her downfall.
- Foil: To Bob. They have completely different approaches to seer work. While Bob prefers to manipulate from the sidelines and is content to be underestimated, Estella is the open, absolute ruler of her clan and cannot bear any hint of disrespect. Her comparative rigidity is the most likely reason for his victory, despite her advantage in age and experience.
- Old Flame: To Bob. It ended badly, and they are bitter enemies in the present.
- Taking You with Me: As of the second book, she has utterly lost to Bob, so she plans to take him and Bethesda down with her. It doesn't work.
- Seer: She's the current female dragon seer, and the longest-lived seer ever, after the Black Reach himself who possibly doesn't count, being a magical construct.
- Villains Out Shopping: One of the few humanizing—for want of a better word—details about her is that she reads paperback novels, because she enjoys the novelty of not knowing the end of the story before she gets to it.
Svena the White Witch
Second Daughter of the Three Sisters, and one of the greatest dragon mages in the world.
- Antagonist in Mourning: She is devastated—and vengeful—when she discovers Amelia's death.
- Frenemy Tropes: Is simultaneously Amelia's best friend, worst enemy, and greatest rival. She's always plotting to one-up or even kill Amelia, but absolutely loses it when she finds out Amelia has died, with Bob apparently having killed her.
- Birds of a Feather: She's the most ambitious dragon in her clan, just as her current lover Ian is in his.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: She feels like this about Amelia, her rival for eons and the only other dragon mage on her level. Despite their stated intention to kill each other, the fact that they're one another's only true equals means that they talk shop quite a bit, and in practice have a strange kind of friendship.
- Promotion to Parent: Since their mothers went to sleep immediately after Katya's birth, Svena essentially raised her.
- The Starscream: She plots to take leadership of her clan from Estella. It's very hard to blame her.
- Weak, but Skilled: Compared to her rival Amelia. Svena lacks Amelia's raw power because she stayed on the human plane during the magic drought. Her advantage lies in her fine control and delicate spellwork, which her rival struggles with.
- We Used to Be Friends: She and Estella were close in Svena's youth, but Svena has long since grown resentful of Estella's control over her life.
- What Does She See in Him?: Her relationship with Ian is very strange by draconic standards; Julius is shocked to learn that she's considering having a clutch with him, since most dragonesses of her age and power would never consider a mating flight with a young upstart.
Ysolde the Frost Caller
Fifth daughter of the Three Sisters.
- Healing Hands: Her healing spells are the best in her clan.
- Godiva Hair: It covers her body completely when she transforms into human shape.
- Satellite Character: Ysolde plays a much smaller role than the other three named members of her clan. She's the sister who supports Katya when she kills Estella and takes temporary command of the clan, and she heals the badly injured Marci at Katya's request; that's it. She isn't even mentioned by name in the final two books.
- Winter Royal Lady: According to Katya, she's cold in personality even for a member of her clan, and like all of them she has ice powers.
The twelfth and youngest Daughter of the Three Sisters, born immediately before the magic drought. She is also the only member of the clan not to be gifted in magic. For her entire life, her sisters have kept her mewed up in their ice fortress, while she has run away, over and over again—only for Estella to inevitably find her and force her to return.
- Abdicate the Throne: After killing Estella and taking her position as acting clan head, she immediately cedes the position to Svena, saying that she doesn't know how to lead the sisters who have held her in contempt for her whole life.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Despite everything, she truly cares for Svena, and not only swears vengeance against Estella for mind controlling her but actually carries it out, killing her.
- Birds of a Feather: She and Julius are both close to the opposite of what their families value, not to mention the youngest and romantically involved with human mages. Naturally, they end up as friends.
- Black Sheep: She's terrible at magic, in a clan that defines themselves as unequaled sorceresses. Consequently, even the sisters who are fond of her are rather embarrassed by her existence.
- The Dog Bites Back: Kills Estella and takes control of the clan, after suffering under her rule more than any of them.
- Interspecies Romance: With Ross, a human shaman. Although it's not clear that Ross actually knows Katya's true nature, they seem to genuinely care about each other.
- MayflyDecember Romance: She's over a thousand years old, born before the magic drought. Her boyfriend is, as mentioned, human.
The Golden Empire
Xian, The Golden Emperor
The undisputed ruler of the Chinese dragon clans, and therefore the current ruler of China itself. He's also the Qilin, "good fortune made flesh", and has only tenuous control over his luck magic.
- Blessed with Suck: His luck powers only work properly when he's in a neutral-to-positive mood, and whenever he gets upset, disasters happen—most commonly earthquakes. Even the members of his court who genuinely seem to care for him also see him as essentially a magical nuke waiting to go off.
- Heir Club for Men: Played with. The Qilin's magic has to be passed on to his first and only son; the Qilin's mate is carefully chosen for her ability to ensure that she lays only one egg, that it is male, and that the hatchling is as powerful as possible. However, the Qilin is also supposed to die before his son is born... And if he has children outside of that ritual, not only can none of them be a Qilin, but he has no chance of siring a "proper" heir.
- Long-Lost Relative: He is strongly hinted to be Chelsie's former lover and the father of F-clutch. This is confirmed in the fourth book.
- Supernatural Gold Eyes: He has bright golden eyes and is a very magical dragon indeed; both are family traits.
- Winds of Destiny, Change: How the Golden Emperor's magic works. When he's in a good mood, things just fall into place for him and his empire, and he's capable of "willing" improbable events to happen. When he's in a bad mood, the result is chaos and destruction, which is notably not under his control.
The Empress Mother
The Golden Emperor's mother, who sacrificed most of her own flame to see him born despite the effects of the magic drought.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Her humiliation of Bethesda. It's petty and cruel, but her target is one of the nastiest characters in the series.
- My Beloved Smother: She's quite controlling of her son. She finds out that he's dating someone unsuitable, so she tries to have her killed.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: She has distinctive red eyes, and is an extremely hostile character.
The Golden Emperor's sorcerer, as well as his first cousin.
- First-Name Basis: He's the first character to use the Golden Emperor's given name, Xian.
The first dragon to go public after the return of magic, Marlin Drake is the head of a media empire and the leader of the clanless dragons.
- Early-Bird Cameo: Marlin appears in the mailing list exclusive story "Mother of the Year", in which he interviews Bethesda for his show. He finally makes his debut in the series proper in Last Dragon Standing, where he brings the clanless dragons to fight Algonquin's Leviathan and reveals that he's Julius's (and, by extension, all of J-Clutch's) father.
- MayDecember Romance: He's only a little older than Bethesda's H-clutch, but is one of her many lovers.
- Last of His Kind: He's the last survivor of his clan.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: He casually reveals that he's Julius's father when they meet. Apparently, he does this whenever a J becomes "important" enough to bother with; he did it with Justin when he became a Knight of the Mountain at seventeen. According to Justin, Julius is the last to know, and he kept it as secret because he didn't think Marlin was anything to brag about.
- Sea Monster: Marlin is a sea serpent in his dragon form. His children share his head shape and blue-and-green colors, although they're all feathered serpents like their mom.
Arkniss | Fading Smoke
The Dragon of Gibraltar. Arkniss is the head of one of the smaller dragon clans, father of one of Bethesda's older clutches and an old enemy of General Emily Jackson.
Marci's late father, a first-generation mage. Although he was a kind and loving father and genuinely wanted to help others, he managed to get mixed up with local crime boss Bixby, to his great cost.
- Deader Than Dead: Marci trades her memory of him to Ghost to seal their bond in the second book, leaving her father—a man with no other close connections—absolutely forgotten by all save Ghost himself.
- Nice Guy: He was a kind man and an excellent father, despite the way of life he fell into.
- Posthumous Character: He's murdered immediately before the first book starts.
A crime boss from Las Vegas who has it in for Marci.
Katya's human boyfriend, a crocodile shaman.
- Interspecies Romance: He's dating Katya, a dragon, although it isn't made clear when or if he found out about her true nature.
- MayflyDecember Romance: His girlfriend predates the magic drought, making her over a thousand years old.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Katya doesn't know what happened to him when Estella kidnapped her from their sewer commune, and his whereabouts are still unknown after Algonquin's dragon purge.
General Emily Jackson | The Phoenix | Raven's Construct
Head of the UN's anti-dragon task force, and a close friend of the Raven spirit. She's entirely dedicated to protecting humanity against any and all threats.
- Action Girl: A dragon-killing soldier definitely qualifies as this.
- Cyborg: She's largely (or entirely) made of metal and machinery, although magic is also definitely involved.
- Exact Words: She tells Julius she was born in Detroit—not the DFZ. This is the first clue to her true age and nature.
- Four-Star Badass: She's a general who's killed multiple dragons, and survived a lot of situations that should have killed her.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Word for word after killing Marci, who had just pretended to defect to Algonquin to save Julius's life.
- Older Than They Look: She was an adult sixty years ago, when magic returned to the world. She still looks fairly young, though this may be because she's more machine than human and has a direct connection to the immortal Raven Spirit.
- Red Baron: "The Phoenix" for her habit of surviving apparent death.
- Some dragons have a more insulting nickname for her, Raven's Wind-Up Toy Soldier (due to Emily's robotic body being built almost entirely by Raven himself).
- Sole Survivor: The rest of her family perished in Algonquin's destruction of Detroit.
Sir Myron Rollins
The UN's Undersecretary of Magic. He's one of the oldest and most powerful human mages. Like Marci, he greatly resents the knowledge his species has lost.
- Broken Pedestal: Marci idolizes him because he's a famously brilliant and innovative mage. Then she meets him. While he really is as smart as his reputation makes him out to be (having invented an entire form of magic that works for no one except himself), he's also arrogant, close-minded, and rather petty. By the end of their short acquaintance, they both despise each other.
- FaceHeel Turn: Driven by his jealousy of Marci and his distrust of Ghost's powers, he joins Algonquin for the opportunity to become the Merlin to the Mortal Spirit she seeks to create... although he's not being entirely honest with Algonquin, either.
- Green-Eyed Monster: He's jealous of Marci—who dropped out of college immediately before graduation—having the chance to become the world's first Merlin instead of him.
- He Who Fights Monsters: His work with the UN—being called in to deal with disasters and crimes against humanity for decades—has left Sir Myron a deeply cynical man. He has no faith left in human nature... or the nature of the Mortal Spirits, because after all, they're the creations of human fears, and he knows humanity's dark side very well.
- He greatly resents the fact that the world's first Mortal Spirit bonded with Marci rather than him, believing himself to be the superior option because of his greater knowledge of magic. Then he meets Ghost, finds out that his power comes from death, and is horrified by it... but still resents Marci for having the opportunity he wouldn't have accepted if it had been offered to him.
- He doesn't bother trying to discuss anything with Marci, as he can see her mind is made up and she won't listen to him. He of course refuses to listen to anything she says, even when he admits he doesn't have all the answers.
- Knight Templar: He wants what's best for humanity, but he's got a somewhat idiosyncratic notion of what that is, and he does not take opposition well. In the fourth book, Sir Myron seeks to start a second magical drought, because he believes it's the only way to protect human beings from not only spirits and dragons, but the gods born of their own fears and desires.
- Pride: He's one of the greatest human mages in the world, one of the few survivors of the first generation of human mages after the magic drought, and it has gone to his head rather spectacularly.
Ghost | The Empty Wind, Spirit of the Forgotten Dead
The spirit Marci bound on her first job in the DFZ, believing him to be a death spirit of cats. He doesn't know his true name.
- Dark Is Not Evil: He's basically well-intentioned, but he talks like a supervillain and is, you know, a death spirit of sorts.
- Don't Fear the Reaper: Ghost is deeply creepy and potentially quite dangerous, but he's not malevolent. And he turns out to be closer to a death god than a death spirit.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Ghost objects to Julius's relationship with Marci, because it takes some of Marci's attention away from him. The fact that Julius is immortal probably has something to do with it: since Julius loves Marci, he'll remember her as long as he lives, and since he's a dragon, that means that she'll be kept out of Ghost's domain indefinitely.
- Psychopomp: Part of his role is carrying out the last wishes of the forgotten dead, and then letting them go.
Algonquin, the Lady of the Lakes
A spirit of the Great Lakes who woke with the return of magic and promptly destroyed Detroit. She is currently the undisputed ruler of the Detroit Free Zone, built over the old city's ruins.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Of the Great Lakes.
- Big Bad: Shaping up to be the main villain of the series as a whole.
- Control Freak: Her ultimate goal is to keep humans as weak as possible. She's trying to grow her own Mortal Spirit so that she can have the first Merlin mute the flow of magic and prevent any more Mortal Spirits from rising.
- Creepy Monotone: The audiobook narrator gives her this voice, and it works very, very well. She loses it eventually.
- Cycle of Revenge: She destroyed Detroit due to the pollution in her waters, and founded the DFZ to prepare to fight both mortals and dragons. The mortals and dragons responded with weapons of their own. Around and around it goes.Raven: You were wronged, no one can argue that, but being a victim doesn't free you from taking responsibility for what you've done since. You started this escalation. You invited in what you should never have touched. Now the dragons have done the same, and it doesn't take a seer to see how that's going to end. There's only one possible outcome when two unstoppable forces collide.
- Enemy Mine: Algonquin loathes pretty much everyone but her own kind (and her fish, of course). She's willing to use human mages for her own ends, and in the end, she sides with Julius and Marci against her Leviathan in order to save the world from the apocalypse she herself started.
- Fantastic Racism: She hates dragons because they're an invasive species. In lesser measure, she seems to despise everyone who isn't a nature spirit (humans and Mortal Spirits both) despite the fact that she's herself palling around with a Nameless End.
- Gaia's Vengeance: Explicitly treated as a bad thing. Algonquin was a victim of human pollution and development originally, but her actions since have been extremely villainous.
- I Have Your Wife: She uses Julius as a hostage to try to get Marci to work for her.
- Red Baron: The Lady of the Lakes.
Vann Jeger, the Death of Dragons
Spirit of the Geirangerfjord, currently serving Algonquin as her chief dragon hunter.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Of his fjord.
- The Dragon: To Algonquin. Ironically, he serves as her dragon hunter.
- The Dragonslayer: His official job and passion. He's killed enough dragons that none of them want to tangle with him anymore.
- The Dreaded: He's considered more or less unstoppable. Even Amelia admits her plan to "fight" him was to just jump in a portal.
- Enemy Mine: Surprisingly, he's the first spirit to join Marci's plan to defeat the Leviathan. He swears he's still going to hunt her after, but there won't be an after without her.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: The reason he remains so powerful so far from his fjord is that he can use any of the weapons that have fallen into his waters over the centuries. Since many ancient Vikings burned their dead along with their powerful magic weapons, that makes him very dangerous.
- Hypocrite: He gets mad at Marci for "stealing" his weapons, but the weapons were never his in the first place; they were just dropped in his waters.
- Red Baron: The Death of Dragons.
The Raven spirit, who is also Raven from the myths.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: He is of course the Animal Spirit of ravens. He is also the Mortal Spirit of humanity's idea of the trickster god Raven. He intentionally spread the myths to attain godhood.
- Birds of a Feather: So to speak. He and Amelia are both ancient, inhuman magical beings, who are fascinated with humanity. This led to their relationship in the past.
- Crazy-Prepared: He spread the myth of ravens being able to bring back the dead so that he could resurrect people under the right circumstances.
- Old Flame: To Amelia, his one-time lover and rival.
- Ravens and Crows: He mentions he stole most of Crow's stories, since humans can't tell the difference between ravens and crows anyway.
- The Trickster: In keeping with mythology.
The Black Reach | Dragon Sees Eternity
The third dragon seer, far older than Bob or Estella, and so skilled that they can barely see his machinations, let alone counter them. He appears in the first and last visions of every other dragon seer. He lives in China, where dragons openly rule.
- The Ace: Bob, who isn't exactly humble about his own accomplishments, readily admits that the Black Reach's skill is so far beyond his that he's lucky to notice the Black Reach's plans, and countering them is impossible. This foreshadows how Bob finally beats him; instead of trying to outfight him as a seer, he creates a future good enough that the Black Reach doesn't want to kill him.
- Artificial Human: Make that artificial dragon. He's a construct created by ancient dragons before they fled their home plane.
- The Dreaded: Only to seers, but always to seers. A seer's first vision is of their own death. The very next day, the Black Reach inevitably shows up, and the new seer is terrified because they recognize him as the one who killed them.
- Rule of Symbolism: He's fond of using symbolism in the way he kills seers. Estella is killed by Katya, the youngest of her sisters, who Estella treated as little better than a prisoner. He tries to kill Bob with Svena, who is pissed at Bob for hatching the next seer first. When that doesn't work, the Black Reach decides that merely having Julius present, who is at the center of all Bob's plans, is a good enough alternative.
Dragon Sees the Beginning
A construct created to preserve the dragons' past. He resides on their original home plane, or what's left of it.
- Artificial Human: He's an artificial dragon, a magical construct intended to preserve the past of a species that utterly destroyed their own future. His "brother" left their home plane with the dragon refugees, and is currently known as the Black reach.
- After the End: The dragons' home plane no longer exists, because the seers of the past literally used up time itself in their attempts to one-up each other. Dragon Sees the Beginning exists in the last, stretched-out moment left to their whole universe.
- It Amused Me: His reason for helping Julius. Julius, as a truly benevolent dragon, is a novelty to Dragon Sees the Beginning, and entertainment isn't easily come by when you live in a dead universe.
- Mister Exposition: His purpose is to preserve the past, so it makes sense that this is his role.
A mysterious, enormous monster that apparently serves Algonquin. She refers to it as "what happens when I fail." It's actually a Nameless End, a cosmic scavenger that devours dead planes.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Leviathan fundamentally does not belong in this reality, and pretty much only pays lip service to the laws of nature.
The Final Future
The Nameless End that devoured the dragons' home plane.
- Animorphism: Her true form can't enter a living plane, so she appears as a small bird.
- Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: One of Bob's titles is "Consort to a Nameless End", and he and his lady seem to genuinely care for each other.
- Eldritch Abomination: She's the Nameless End that the ancient dragon seers sold their futures to.
- Interspecies Romance: Bob is a dragon. The Final Future is an Eldritch Abomination in the form of a pigeon. His proposal to her is genuinely romantic, and they seem happy together.
A shikigami—in this series, something like a magical AI—created by Abe no Seimei, the last Merlin before the magic drought. Shiro is bound by the characters White, Iron, and Truth.
- Fantastic Racism: He really doesn't like dragons, although as Amelia admits, he's had good reason for that attitude.
- Mr. Exposition: He was bound to the Heart of the World so that he could explain the actions of previous Merlins to later generations, such as why Abe no Seimei and his fellows felt it was worthwhile to cause the magical drought in the first place.
- Sour Supporter: He's bound to the Heart of the World, and therefore, to the will of the current Merlins. That doesn't mean he approves of Marci's decisions.
- Undying Loyalty: To Abe no Seimei, his master and creator, who could clearly do no wrong in Shiro's eyes. He's also bound to serve Marci once she becomes a Merlin, but he's far more ambivalent about her.