In the land of Volstov, Owen Adamo, the hard-as-nails ex-Chief Sergeant of the Dragon Corps, learns that Volstov's ruler, the Esar, is secretly pursuing plans to resurrect magically powered sentient robot dragons--even at the risk of igniting another war. Though Adamo is not without friends--the magician Royston and former corpsman Balfour--there is only so much he and his allies can do. Adamo has been put out to pasture, given a professorship at the University. Royston, already exiled once, dares not risk the Esar's wrath again. And Balfour, who lost both his hands in the war, is now a diplomat--and still trying to master the metal replacements that have earned him various nicknames . . . of which "Steelhands" is the least offensive. But sometimes help comes where it's least expected. In this case, from two students: Laurence, a feisty young woman raised by her father to be the son he never had, and Toverre, her brilliant if neurotic fiancé. When a mysterious illness strikes the university, Laurence takes her suspicions to Adamo--and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change Volstov forever.