But it is this exile that will bring about the two most important events in young Zarq's life. She is ritually circumcised and introduced to the joys and horrors of dragon venom. Her mother and her ended their flight at a temple dedicated to tending to the needs of bull dragons that can no longer mate.
The Temple dictates who can do what in all matters, and in matters concerning the care of bull dragons, the restrictions are very clear. You either have to be an aristocrat, a dragon master, an apprentice to a dragon master, or unsexed to tend to them.
It's while learning to tend to the needs of the bull dragons that Zarq is also introduced to the hallucinogenic and soporific properties of the venom produced by all dragons, but in the bull is far more potent. It will turn out that her ritual "unsexing" and the addiction she forms for dragon venom will be factors that influence the balance of her journey in this first instalment of the Dragon Temple Saga
Touched By Venom can be taken literally to mean that Zarq's life is forever marked by stain of dragon venom, or it can be taken as an allusion to her developing anger through out the book at the injustices she sees around her in society. Each of them, though, are what propel her actions towards the final climax of this first installment.
Janine Cross has written a brilliant depiction of a despotic theocracy whose sole purpose is to insure that a very few people have power over the majority. Throughout the book we are shown how a people can be cowed through fear, doctrine, and the promise of some minor improvements in their lot into, not only being submissive, but also be willing accomplices in their own oppression.
In exchange for a few tawdry honours, or slight improvements in their pathetic existence, people will turn their brothers over to the authorities, obey the letter of the law, all the while knowing it will result in their death, and gladly live a life of wretched poverty believing when they are told that no other option exists.
The dragons themselves are creatures both fearsome and commonplace. Treated like horses and cattle by the aristocrats, each of which have a breeding colony either serviced by their own bull, or by purchasing stud rights from another family. Since only bulls caught in the wild are allowed to be used for stud, and you are not allowed to replace your bull until it has passed out of your hands, there are plenty of times when the latter will occur.