"The Dragon of Despair" is about messed up families, people who get a kick out of manipulating others, the struggle of a people to be recognized as a nation, divided loyalties and about Firekeeper trying to learn patience.
In terms of messed up families we are talking about poor little Citrine and her mother Melina. When Citrine got her finger cut off it did something to her head. It wasn't the fact of her finger alone but the finger added to her mother's seeming abandonment. Melina must be a prime example of a psychopath/sociopath.
Melina has established her position as the wife to the ruler of New Kelvin, Toriovico. She managed to marry him through her usual machinations and has him and most of his Primes completely in her power. Her reasons for this marriage does, of course, have to do with magic although it would probably be more correct to say that she wants all the power she can get and will use any means to get it.
What does this have to do with Citrine? For her own good King Tedric sends her along with the gang on their jaunt to New Kelvin. This time they are allegedly looking into setting up a silk-line from New Kelvin to Hawk Haven through the Kestrel and Archer families. This is the excuse for the presence of Edlin, Firekeeper, Blind Seer, Derian, Elise, Doc, Wendy, Grateful Peace (in disguise) and Citrine (also in disguise). Their real mission is to see if they can stop whatever it is Melina is up to.
To get Firekeeper and Blind Seer to go to New Kelvin, King Tedric has promised her that he will take care of the problem that has risen west of the Iron Mountains. Otherwise Firekeeper and Blind Seer would probably have gone to aid their family back there. But King Tedric feels this would only damage Firekeeper's case with the nobles and even more importantly to him, he needs Firekeeper and Blind Seers abilities in New Kelvin.
West of the Iron Mountains a group of settlers has tried to get Bardenville up and running again. The Royal Beasts do not like this and are discussing what to do with the settlers. Only Firekeeper's reassurance that King Tedric means to keep his promises keeps them from taking terminal action.
Firekeeper's introduction to the human world and her struggles to understand the distinctions we make between different qualities gives us a better look at how weird human societies truly are. She still remains my favorite character (along with her companion Blind Seer). Derian follows with poor little Citrine in third place. Citrine is a person I have no trouble at all identifying with.
I am still reading to my son and he is still enjoying the tales in the "Firekeeper Saga". In fact, he grows impatient if I have to wait for the next book to arrive. I rather enjoy having been able to pass on the joy of reading to my sons. Stories have always been such an important teaching tool in society and the Firekeeper saga does a great job in that respect. Not only is Firekeeper an interesting and fun example to follow but Lindskold also manages to convey her respect for nature to me as a reader.