Dragon Wing

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Dragon Wing
Deathgate dragonwing cover.jpg
Author Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Country United States
Language English
Series The Death Gate Cycle
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Bantam Spectra
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback)
Pages 432 pp (paperback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-553-28639-0 (paperback edition)
OCLC 20637705
Followed by Elven Star

Dragon Wing (1990) is the first novel by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman in their Death Gate Cycle series.

Following the Rose of the Prophet trilogy, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman embarked on an ambitious seven-volume series that began with Dragon Wing. As described by the publisher, "Preeminent storytellers Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have redefined epic fantasy. Since the publication of their Dragonlance series, millions of readers have enjoyed their imaginative world-building, rich characterization, and intricate storylines. Now these bestselling authors bring their talents to one of the most innovative fantasy creations ever in Dragon Wing, the first volume in The Death Gate Cycle."

Plot summary[edit]

Arianus, the World of Air, is composed entirely of porous floating islands, aligned in three basic altitudes. In the Low Realm, the dwarves (called "Gegs", an elven word for "insects") live on the continent Drevlin and cheerfully serve the giant Kicksey-winsey, a city-sized machine that is the source of all water in Arianus. In the Mid Realm, elves and humans have warred for centuries with each other and amongst themselves for water, status, and advantage. Above them all in the High Realm live the Mysteriarchs, isolationist human wizards of the Seventh House rank. They were some of the most powerful wizards of their kind, leaving fellow humans behind in their disgust for the constant warfare, but they never equalled the likes of the missing Sartan and Patryn races.

As the novel opens, the Lord of the Nexus instructs a follower on his task in Arianus. The follower will go to Arianus and discreetly spy against the Sartan, the race that has long imprisoned their people before mysteriously disappearing. There, the follower will spread chaos in preparation for the Lord's arrival, never revealing that he is actually one of the powerful Patryn race. When the time comes, the Lord will conquer all of the worlds and reunite them as one under his rule. The Patryns will have their revenge against their Sartan enemies.

On Arianus, an assassin named Hugh the Hand is hired by King Stephen, nominally the ruler of all humanity, to kill Crown Prince Bane. Bane is a devious child—charming, but ambitious, and totally self-possessed. Hugh takes Bane away from Stephen's fortress, and the two are followed by Bane's manservant, the gangly, balding Alfred Montbank, whose greatest talents seem to be fainting at the first sign of danger and tripping over anything in his path (and several things that aren't).

At this time on Drevlin, a Geg is on trial for the crime of thinking too much. Limbeck Bolttightner seems obsessed with the question of why, but his most heretical belief is that the god-like Welves, who land in their giant flying dragonships for tributes of water every month or so, are not actually gods at all. He once found a (W)elf dead in a crashed dragonship, and even his girlfriend, Jarre, won't believe that a god could actually die. Sentenced to death by being thrown off the continent on a hang-glider, Limbeck manages to crash-land on a smaller island some distance down, where he encounters an injured man whose damaged ship is covered with brilliantly shining runes. The Kicksey-winsey inadvertently destroys the ship, but Limbeck manages to rescue the man in time. He believes the injured man is also a god, one he can pit against the Welves, so he brings the unconscious man along as he rides back up to Drevlin in one of the Kicksey-winsey's help-hands. Joining them is a dog who refuses to leave the "god"'s side despite its own injuries.

Haplo—Limbeck's god and the follower from the prologue—awakens in Drevlin not long before Hugh, Bane and Alfred crash-land there as well. It becomes clear that Haplo's dog is more than the average canine; he is very intelligent, and Haplo can hear through his ears.

The rulers of the Gegs present the prisoners to the Welves as false gods, with Limbeck thrown in for free in the hopes that the Welves will execute the lot. Various circumstances (a mutiny against the tyrannical elven captain, a dwarven rebellion against their overlords) leads to Bane hiring the ship to take him up into the High Realm. After a series of adventures in the High Realm, Haplo returns to the Nexus to prepare for his next journey: to Pryan, the World of Fire.


Alfred Montbank

Bane's servant, he is a powerful Sartan who is disguised as a chamberlain.


Prince of the Mid Realm


A loner in every sense of the word (his name is the Greek prefix for single), Haplo misses little but keeps his own council. Mild and almost unassuming for most of the book, he is nonetheless driven by his mission, and shows great emotion when confronting Alfred. Haplo is a Patryn, the ancient enemy of the Sartan, and is sent by his lord to scout the worlds before the Patryn conquest his lord has planned.

Hugh the Hand

An infamous assassin, Hugh was raised by Kir Monks after the death of his mother. His father, an aristocrat, abandoned Hugh's mother shortly after his birth. Hugh took revenge on his father after leaving the Kir Monks, sending himself down a path that would eventually lead to him becoming the most feared assassin in Arianus.


Limbeck's girlfriend, who must constantly deal with his absent-minded ways. She is very supportive of him despite being not-so-keen on his unusual vision.

King Stephen

The current king of the human realm, ruler of both Volkaran and Uylandia via his marriage to Queen Anne. Though the marriage was originally for political convenience, the two have come to love one another dearly.

Limbeck Bolttightener

A dwarf with too many questions, he is awed by much of what he sees over the course of the book. He has not lost his childlike capacity to wonder, a value that Jarre (at least) values highly. He is considerably myopic.

Lord of the Nexus

Leader of the Patryns and the first of their race to escape the Labyrinth. It is he who learns of the existence of Death Gate and the four worlds. At this point in the series, he is also the only one of his people to return to the Labyrinth, saving the lives of his fellow people.


Leader of the mysteriarchs.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Dragon Wing was reviewed by Booklist, Library Journal, and Voice of Youth Advocates.

The book hit the bestseller lists for Locus, Waldenbooks, and B. Dalton.[1]


Dragon Wing has been licensed and translated into many languages, including Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.