Tonlu's father, a poor mountain farmer, owes the village merchant a great deal of money. The merchant comes to collect his debt and gives the family two weeks to pay or he will claim either the farm or Tonlu as his bride. Tonlu cannot bear the thought of leaving her home and marrying the cruel merchant. She resolves to pay the debt by climbing the treacherous dragon steps to the home of the cloud dragons where she intends to steal some of their vast treasure.
Through the night she climbs the misty trail until she encounters the cave of the dragons. While they sleep, Tonlu tries to steal a single pearl from a necklace, only to break the strand and wake the dragons. They imprison Tonlu and face her with a dangerous choice. She knows that unless everyone wins, no one will be happy.
"The fiery dragons on the cover invite the reader into their cave (for some dragon soup perhaps?) and the vivid illustrations are as engaging as the story. The theme of resolving conflict without violence is a relevant one for children today growing up in a world of violence, and dragons complete with their reputation, provide an unexpected yet effective example for kids. There's no need to slay the dragons in this story, just read it."
Colorado Parent, June 1996
"In this lovely tale, the heroine Tonlu is a wonderful role model for both children and adults... Creative, emotion filled illustrations draw the reader deep into the tale."
Skipping Stones, March 1997