Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Gollancz; New Ed edition (May 9, 2002)
Category(ies): Alternative History/Fantasy
It's late mediaeval Europe, but not our late mediaeval Europe, because Christianity is almost nowhere to be seen - Mithraism is the religion of many of our protagonists. As a result, Byzantium still exists, unsacked by the Crusaders. (No Christianity, no Islam in reaction, no Crusades, it all fits together.) Byzantium has nearly conquered the whole of Italy, with the Medicis the last hope of Florence. France comprises a couple of buffer states between the English holdings to the West, the Byzantines to the East. The New World has been discovered, but is nothing of consequence yet.
Oh, and there are vampires and magicians.
This is a fun blending of alternate history and a light admixture of pure fantasy. Vampirism is seen as both a disease, and as a possible last hope for someone who is already dying. Magic is hard work, and there are few that can actually carry it out. Add to this, the end of the Wars of the Roses, with a very nice portrait of Richard of Gloucester (the one who became Richard III) and the politics of the time, and you have something quite different.
Oh, the dragon of the title is figurative, not literal. No large reptilians here.
The first section is three long chapters, each introducing one of the main characters, and it does take a long time for Ford to bring them all together. There are also some points where the multiple names caused me some confusion (well, when we get to the Nottingham/Buckingham.Gloucester bits, that's especially true). But on the whole, it's a Fantasy Masterwork for a reason