Dumery, fourth child of the sixth-richest man in Ethshar of the Spices, had nothing left to inherit, so he and his father agreed that he ought to seek an apprenticeship—but the last thing Doran expected was that Dumery would ask to be apprenticed to a wizard.
Alas, Dumery's dreams were shattered when Thetheran the wizard told him he no capacity for wizardry whatsoever, and further investigation showed that he had no talent for any of the various magics of The World.
Wandering around the city, trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, Dumery happened upon the sight of Thetheran resentfully spending a massive amount of gold to buy dragon's blood from a man who treated him with incredible disrespect, and came to a realization: If he became a dragon-hunter all those haughty wizards who'd rejected him would be begging for the precious resource.
So he asked the dragon-hunter, Kensher, to take him on as an apprentice...
...and was bluntly rejected.
Dumery didn't let that stop him, and impulsively decided on the spot to follow Kensher in the hopes of finding some way to change his mind, no matter how far he had to go.
Back home, Dumery's worried parents consulted a witch, who agreed to send her apprentice to find the boy.
Said apprentice, Teneria, ended up running into trouble of her own...
This novel provides examples of:
- All for Nothing: Dumery nearly gets himself killed chasing after Kensher, only to learn that he's got eleven kids, each of whom has a better claim to an apprenticeship at the dragon farm than Dumery ever could.
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read:
- During the Charm Person incident mentioned below, Teneria was able to read every bit of her target's fear and confusion.
- Thanks to her mental contact with Adar, Teneria hears what The Calling sounds like and becomes sensitive to it as demonstrated later.
- An Arm and a Leg: Kinner, Kensher's father, lost an arm when he got careless with one of the dragons.
- Anti-Hero: Unlike other Ethshar protagonists, Dumery is a reckless, stubborn brat, but he does still have a decent heart.
- The Apprentice:
- Dumery wanted to be an apprentice to a magician, but had no talent.
- He also tries to be an apprentice dragon farmer, but gets turned down flat. Several times.
- Teneria is an apprentice witch, and finding Dumery is her ticket to becoming a journeyman.
- Awful Truth: Aldagon thinks the dragon farm is still being run by the military, though she doesn't understand why they seem to be raising dragons only to kill them. When Dumery tells it's privately-run, for profit, and the young dragons are being killed just for their blood, she's furious.
- Blackmail Backfire: Dumery tries to get Kensher to take him on as an apprentice by threatening to reveal the existence and location of the dragon farm to the wizards. Kensher points out that 1) any wizard who actually cared where their dragon blood came from could just use a scrying spell to find out, and 2) he and his family had just saved Dumery from dying in the mountains—a fate which might still be on the table if he doesn't watch it.
- Blood Magic: Dragon's blood is a powerful and vital component to many wizards' spells.
- Call to Agriculture: A very odd sort of agriculture, but the dragon farm started as a military project during the Great War, and is currently run by the descendants of the man who refused to disband it after the War ended.
- Charm Person: As a youth Teneria used her powers to sway a stingy candy-seller into giving her credit...and whammied him so hard he gave every kid he saw free candy for the next sixnight. Severe My God, What Have I Done? ensued.
- Comforting Comforter: When Teneria eventually passes out, Adar manages to put her cloak over her before succumbing to The Calling.
- Continuity Nod: Valder briefly appears in his capacity as an innkeeper.
- Deuteragonist: Teneria. LWE regards her as the real hero of the book.
- Desperately Seeking A Purpose In Life: Dumery, at first.
- Didn't Think This Through: Dumery constantly gets into trouble because of this.
- Dragon Rider: Aldagon takes Dumery back to Eshthar by air.
- Determinator Dumery's strongest trait is that when he sets his mind to something he does not let it go. Deconstructed somewhat in that his determination tends to inconvenience everyone around him. And running into Aldagon was dumb luck as much as anything.
- Embarrassing First Name: Aldagon's true name is "Yellowbelly", the name given to her by her masters in the military before she became sapient and the one she first recognized as her own. She's understandably reluctant to tell Dumery this.
- Fantastic Racism: The inn at Aldagmor's refusal at admit Adar looks like this at first, but there are only so many times you can have warlocks bursting through your windows or walls to get to the Source before you put your foot down.
- Giftedly Bad: Thetheran notes that Dumery isn't just bad at magic, but magic actively refuses to be used by him.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Teneria (almost eighteen) and Adar the warlock (mid-thirties) strike one up after she saves him from The Calling.
- Karma Houdini: After all the trouble he puts everyone though, Dumery still gets what he wants (with a bit of a delay).
- Necessary Evil: Kensher and his family are decent, hard-working people, who cripple baby dragons's wings and slaughter them before they get old enough to become sapient. From their point of view it's a perfectly natural thing they've been doing for hundreds of years.
- Non-Human Sidekick: A spriggan tries to be this for Dumery (who rejects him), and eventually teams up with Teneria instead.
- Reality Ensues:
- You can be plucky and clever and determined, and still not get what you want.
- If you go on a journey without preparing first, you're going to end up miserable.
- Resist the Beast: Teneria uses her powers to help Adar resist The Calling. Too bad she has to sleep sometime.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Dumery starts out wanting to be a dragon-hunter so he can make wizards grovel at his feet. After discovering the dragon farm and its cruel practices, his priorities change to driving them out of business and...having wizards grovel at his feet. Well, it's an improvement.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
- After Teneria learns that her powers can keep Adar from succumbing to The Calling, she immediately breaks off her pursuit of Dumery so the two of them can try to get far enough away from Aldagmor for Adar to resist it on his own before she passes out from exhaustion. They don't make it.
- After she loses Adar, Teneria finally finds Dumery only to have him escape and get her into trouble at the dragon farm, and realizes she's close enough to the Warlock Stone that she can hear The Calling, Teneria decides she is done and heads home.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Dumery hates Thetheran and sometimes suspects he might have told everyone on Wizard Street to reject him as an apprentice. For his part, Thetheran just sees Dumery as a runaway brat whose parents keep nagging him when he's trying to work.
- Spoiled Brat: From his point of view, Dumery just asks for things and people tell him he's one of these. Perhaps because he asks for ridiculous things, and won't take "no" for an answer?
- Start My Own: After getting firmly rejected by Kensher, Dumery decides to start a dragon farm of his own with Aldagon's help.
- Super Empowering: Get too close to the Warlock Stone and you'll almost certainly turn into a warlock and get Called immediately.
- Sweet and Sour Grapes: Even though Teneria gives up chasing after Dumery, she's still permitted to graduate to journeyman, since he turned up safe and sound and claiming her magic had gotten him home. Her master knows Dumery's lying about that, but eh...
- Take a Third Option: When Aldagon learns the truth about the dragon farm, she's outraged and very nearly destroys it, only holding off because she's aware that the wizards they supply would retaliate. Dumery suggests they start their own cruelty-free dragon farm to drive them out of business instead and she accepts.
- Talking in Your Dreams: Dumery's parents pay Thetheran to contact him this way twice. Of course, he's the last person Dumery wants to see.
- Ultimate Job Security: Kensher can be rude to the wizards he sells to all he wants because they need dragon's blood for their spells, and he's got the only dragon farm in The World.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Dumery thanks Kensher's family for saving him from dying in the wilderness and taking care of him by trying to blackmail them into letting him become an apprentice and attempting to steal dragons from them after they refuse to sell him any.
- The X of Y
- Youngest Child Wins: His three older siblings will get his father's ships, money and house, and Dumery...eventually lays the groundwork for a business whose profits will dwarf all those things.