Princess Esofi of Rhodia traveled to Ieflaria to marry Prince Albion, who she has been engaged to since they were children. Unfortunately, before she gets there, Albion dies in an accident. Ieflaria still needs Esofi's help and she cannot return to her homeland, so instead she is simply set to marry the next in line: Albion's sister, Adale.
While Esofi struggles to deal with Ieflaria's dragon problem, she also has to contend with Adale's abrasive personality, scheming cousins trying to take the throne, and this possibly blasphemous "science" that Ieflaria seems obsessed with.
This novel provides examples of:
- Bait-and-Switch: It initially appears that Esofi is a pampered but kind politician while Adale is a rough and tumble warrior. In reality, Esofi is a highly trained battlemage who personally killed quite a few dragons, while Adale is a spoiled rich girl who does nothing but party with her friends.
- Bi the Way: No one sees anything odd about Esofi marrying a woman; the only question is the heir, but that's not an insurmountable obstacle.
- Combat by Champion: Theodar challenges Esofi to a duel as part of a plot to give Adale long enough to escape her responsibilities. Adale (who isn't sure she wants to escape Esofi any more) offers to be Esofi's champion. Esofi fights him herself and wins handily.
- Gender Bender: A common magic in the setting, and why no one is too worried about the heir of two women. The problem is that you have to want the Change for it to stick; actual transsexuals are easily able to Change permanently, but there is some doubt whether either Esofi or Adale will be able to maintain it long enough to produce an heir.
- The Magic Goes Away: Minor case. Part of the reason Rhodia is having so much trouble with dragons is because their battlemage population has been sharply declining. While they have plenty of other types of magic, battlemages are those blessed by Talcia, and best equipped to fight dragons. Esofi brings a cadre of trained battlemages and plans to build a university. This apparently pleased Talcia, as she blessed a number of adults with magic—something that normally doesn't happen.
- Magic Versus Science: Esofi doesn't trust this new "science," especially superstitious tales of tiny monsters called "bacteria," and mentions that they might have to burn down the hospital for blasphemy. Adale, while far from a scientist herself, is well aware of the benefits of science (in particular, there hasn't been a plague in Ieflaria in a hundred years) and tries to talk her down.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Like all monsters, dragons are the children of Talcia, goddess of magic. They once were intelligent and could speak, but Talcia took those gifts from them as they succumbed to greed. Actually, while Talcia is upset with them, they are still intelligent and fully capable of speech. Their Emperor merely ordered them not to.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: The current king and queen of Ieflaria are unfailingly patient with Esofi and Adale, consider themselves servants of the people, and sponsor arts and sciences.
- Strawman Fallacy: Variant. Adale uses an obvious strawman argument against Esofi to demonstrate why Esofi's mistrust of science might be too hasty.Adale: But you wrote the new segment of the marriage contract yourself, didn't you?
Esofi: I did. What of it?
Adale: I could never do that. I'm terrible with words, and even if I wasn't, I haven't the attention for such things. Writing anything longer than a letter is impossible for me.
Esofi: That's nonsense. You just haven't been properly educated—
Adale: No. I think it's because you've stolen forbidden knowledge or possibly been in contact with demons. Because if I don't understand it, that's the only reasonable explanation and now I must burn you.
- What's Up, King Dude?: Ieflarians are much more familiar with their rulers than other countries. Esofi mentions that on her journey, many peasants were perfectly willing to walk up and shake her hand, then talk loudly in her earshot about how pretty she is and how she'll have no trouble getting a new hand in marriage.