Like her half-breed mother, young Zarq Darquel can't always hold her tongue as she should. A lowly peasant on a large dragon estate in Malacar, she goes unnoticed by the watchful eye of the Temple of the Dragon, despire her rebellious ways -- until she accidentally captures the attention of an eccentric and dangerous dragonmaster and unleashes a storm of tragedy. Her clan is plunged into destitution, her beautiful sister, Waivia, sold into slavery, and her mother lost to madness.
Desperate to find Waivia, Zarq and her delirious mother flee through the underworld of their land -- from the Zone of the Dead to a sanctuary for outcast dragons, through discovery and persecution. Consumed with the desire for revenge, Zarq develops a taste for the highly addictive venom drawn from the dragons she has been taught to revere, and sinks into a realm of bizarre magics. Here, influenced by the divine grace of dragon memories, Zarq glimpses possibilities of revenge and social revolution. But to achieve them, she must defy not just the sexual taboos and patriarchal conventions of her society, but the Emperor who rules her nation...
So..that actually pretty much summarizes the WHOLE book there. Zarq starts out as a nine year old and is about seventeen when this book ends.
It's hard to describe this book. it's bizarre and rather disturbing, yet surprisingly readable. I wanted to complain about how the author stops to explain the history of the land and society, yet reading those sections definitely gives you a better idea of what's going on. This is also definitely not a Euro-centric fantasy. I was actually reminded of my cultural anthropology courses when reading it. It's as if the author has taken many of the more "crazy" practices of primitive societies and set them to work here (yes, and some she's just plain made up). And it does work. We have a patriarchal society that reveres dragons and someone high up is probably addicted to them as well. Women are "unclean" and have their place - at the bottom.
Basically, I think you have to set aside what you think is taboo to read the book. You can't really put your own moral views into the story. Just let it go as it does.
In the end, I think I'll pick up the sequel when my library gets it. I'm curious as to how Zarq is going to gain her revenge on her society. I suspect she plans to turn it on its head in the end.
And beware, this IS a depressing book and even in the end of this one, there's no real resolution or real hope. There's also female circumcision, bestiality, addiction, and just plain disturbing stuff. Yet I did come away glad I read it. It's definitely not your normal fantasy fare.