Guided by the great blue dragon Tintaglia, they came from the sea: a Tangle of serpents fighting their way up the Rain Wilds River: the first to make the perilous journey to the cocooning grounds in generations. Many have died along the way. With its acid waters and noxious airs, it is a hard place for anyone to survive.
People are changed by the Rain Wilds, subtly or otherwise. One such is Thymara. Born with black claws and other abhorrences, she should have been exposed at birth. But her father saved her and her mother has never forgiven him. Like everyone else, Thymara is fascinated by the return of dragons: it is as if they symbolise the return of hope to their war-torn world. Leftrin, captain of the liveship Tarman, also has an interest in the hatching; as does Bingtown newlywed, Alise Finbok, who has made it her life′s work to study all there is to know of dragons.
But the creatures which emerge from the cocoons are a travesty of the powerful, shining dragons of old. Stunted and deformed, they cannot fly. Some do not even have wings; others seem witless and bestial. Soon, they are seen as a danger and a burden: something must be done. Far upriver, so far it is shown on no map, lies the legendary Elderling city of Kelsingra -- or so it is believed. Perhaps there the dragons will find their true home. But they cannot get there on their own: a band of dragon keepers, hunters and chroniclers must attend them.
To be a dragon keeper is a dangerous job: their charges are vicious and unpredictable, and there are many unknown perils: none are expected to return, or even survive...