The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston

story ofThis quirky modern dragon story is more about politics than fighting.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up for content, 8 and up for interest

Pages: 312 (for ISBN 9781467710664)

 Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, modern fantasy, Canadian author, international, North America (Canada)

Tone/Style: sensible, humorous

Pace: leisurely

Topics: dragons, music, storytelling, rural communities, government programs, friendship, politics

Themes: truth vs. fiction, being born into a role vs. choosing it, defying tradition

Summary: Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival.

There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition.

But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected.

Such was Trondheim’s fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds—armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard.

Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen! (from Source)

Who will like this book?: This book takes place in a world that is exactly the same as ours except that there are, and always have been, dragons. From this platform, Johnston has ample room to poke fun at our culture and to make statements about government and the environment. Astute, intelligent readers will appreciate her ingenuity. Quirky characters add to the unconventional setting to make this a unique read for those bored with the usual YA fare. Refreshingly, the male and female lead are good friends but not romantic. Recommend this to intellectual readers who care about social justice and world affairs.

Who won’t like this book?: This is probably not the book those dragon-loving kids (you know the type, right?) are looking for. It’s much more about strategy and social issues as they relate to dragons than it is about actual dragons. Traditional fantasy readers may find the action and fantastical elements to be too sparse.

Other comments: This book was not at all what I expected. The focus on public policy, history, and social issues mean this book may be uninteresting and difficult to comprehend for younger readers. There is little to no mature content. While the book offers perspectives on character emotions, it doesn’t delve too deep; interestingly, the death and destruction wrought by dragon attacks is treated with some nonchalance. The book prominently features a lesbian married couple; the fact that they as lesbian is barely mentioned and is treated as normal.

Sequel(s): Prairie Fire (2015)

Readalikes: This is a hard one. I can’t think of many teen fantasies that put such a focus on politics and social issues. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is an excellent book with an emphasis on diplomacy (or diplomatic breakdown) between humans and dragons. The Novice by Taran Matharu is a fantasy that includes a lot of race and class tension. In some ways, though, I think The Story of Owen is a breed of its own. If you can think of a good readalike, post it in the comments!

-Kylie

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