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Literature / Dragon War

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First published in 1992, Dragon War is Laurence Yep's final installment in the Dragon Series. It is the sequel to Dragon of the Lost Sea, Dragon Steel and Dragon Cauldron.

The Boneless King manages to capture Shimmer, Monkey and Indigo, and steal Baldy's Cauldron. The events of the book are mostly about their attempts to get it back, while preparing troops for a mounting war between the humans and the dragons.


  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Right before the final battle with the Boneless King, it's revealed that Thorn is the only living heir to the throne.
  • Adipose Rex: King Sambar, who has had over a century of peace and feasting to expand his waistline.
  • And I Must Scream: Thorn, whose soul is trapped inside Baldy's Cauldron. Finally fixed in the end, after the Sea is restored.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Played humorously with Shimmer; her magical ability was limited to begin with, but without the Dream Pearl, she has none. Teasing follows about her having to go back to school to learn magic properly.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first book, when Monkey first met Shimmer and Thorn, he thought that he recognized Thorn from somewhere. Shortly before the final battle, we learn that he was thinking of the royal family's gallery. Thorn is the lost heir to the throne.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: When the trio are vastly outnumbered by the Boneless King's "perfect" stone soldier army, they easily smash them all to bits without sustaining any damage at all.
  • The Dragon: Literal example with Pomfret, who becomes the Boneless King's right-hand man, and has a vicious fight with Shimmer in the climax of the novel.
  • Eldritch Location: The chaos before time; Monkey remarks that just looking at it for any significant amount of time would drive someone insane.
  • Fill It with Flowers: After sacrificing the last specimen of Ebony's Tears to summon the Lord of the Flowers in book two, when the sea is finally restored, the Lord shows up and gifts Shimmer with another specimen; as soon as they plant it, it multiplies to spread over the entire shoreline.
  • Foreign Queasine: The contents of the High King of Dragons' larder is filled with all sorts of creepy-crawly undersea creatures. They're so exotic and frightening-looking that the dragons unleash the (harmless) creatures upon human soldiers and bluff about how poisonous and deadly they are to scare them off.
  • Genius Ditz: The Old Boy, Monkey's master, finally appears at the end of the book and turns out to be this. As Monkey puts it, "The Old Boy was a master of magic, but he never could get to the point to save his life."
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • King Sambar XII, who was the antagonist of Dragon Steel, but becomes much more heroic when faced with the realities of war.
    • Pomfret makes one when Shimmer shows him that the Boneless King will wipe out the dragons. He eventually sacrifices himself to kill the King.
  • Heroic RRoD: Late in the book, Shimmer taps too much into the Dream Pearl's magic and almost dies for it; Monkey is forced to destroy the pearl to save her.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In an attempt to give the heroes a demise of absolute cruelty, the Boneless King opens a portal to the primordial chaos that existed before time began, explicitly stating that not even he could escape from there. Meaning that one bodycheck by Pomfret is all it takes to put an end to him for good.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The Smith and Snail Woman are unable to free Thorn from the Cauldron, instead transmogrifying the cauldron into a new flesh and blood body for Thorn. Doing so means that Thorn is effectively immortal, which is a good thing for posterity. After all, it means he won't have to pass on his throne to an unworthy or corrupt heir nor will he have to worry about assassins.
  • Magic Mirror: It's finally revealed that the mirror that the Butcher—and in turn, the Boneless King—used to keep Pomfret loyal is the World Mirror, which allows the viewer to see any possible futures that they wish. Pomfret's Heel–Face Turn and Heroic Sacrifice come after he yields to Shimmer's request to view the future that the Boneless King would create, and sees that every possibility ends the same way: a lifeless wasteland.
  • Master of Illusion: Although Shimmer had mostly been using the dream pearl to perform transformation magic for the past three books, she really demonstrates why it's called the dream pearl in this one.
  • Not Quite Back to Normal: At the end, Thorn's shoulder squeaks when he lifts his arm. The Smith and Snail Woman suspect they failed in transmuting all of the Cauldron properly and left one bone still made of metal.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Boneless King, who had taken over The Butcher's body, has to pretend to be a Muggle and conceal his magical ability behind spells of another mage in order to fool everyone into thinking he's still The Butcher. He finally gives up the act shortly before the final battle.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Boneless King, who plans to reduce the world to a barren wasteland devoid of all life.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In previous books, Shimmer has shown vanity about her size and the size of her snout, even when it compromises disguises. Here, when they're trying to retrieve Thorn from the Boneless King, she doesn't hesitate to give herself a smaller nose so they can succeed.
  • Our Gargoyles Rock: The Boneless King has an army of "perfect" rock soldiers.
  • Redemption Equals Death: When Pomfret discovers the Boneless King's actual plans for the future, he makes a final redemptive sacrifice to defeat him.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: Snowgoose, the Boneless King's familiar, is a ferocious, intelligent, and immortal red-eyed white dog.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: King Sambar... finally.
  • Shapeshifting: In the final battle, this is how the heroes end up Curb-Stomped before they can even begin: they find the whole Big Bad Ensemble waiting for them in the throne room, but all of them are disguised as someone else.
  • The Starscream: Heavily implied with the Butcher; it was previously stated that the King's wife and heir disappeared after his death, leaving the Butcher to ascend to the throne. Here, the Old Boy reveals that he came across the two of them in the wilderness, the queen already fatally injured by assassins who had left them there to die. It's all but stated that said assassins were acting on the Butcher's orders.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Shimmer, it turns out, who can transform anything (including herself), and perform impossibly realistic and dazzling illusions with the dream pearl, cannot cast a spell to save her life without it.
  • Unwilling Transformation: Lesser example with Indigo: though not fond of most dragons due to her prolonged servitude and abuse at the hands of Sambar and his men, she reluctantly allows Shimmer to turn her into one so that they can travel more easily. By the end of the book, she's grown fond of the form and becomes a dragon permanently.