Published: March 1st, 2012
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
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!
Oh how much I enjoyed this story. It was so much fun. Totally different from what I've read recently, it was a wonderful breath of fresh air. I was laughing out loud in spots at Siobhan's tongue in cheek narration of events and I just adored the world building.
E K (Emily Kate) has populated our world with dragons - nasty fire-breathing, unattractive, mindless, hungry dragons - who are only interested in carbon fuels and emissions. In this world, every major historical event has been changed to incorporate dragons and it makes for fascinating and funny reading. By throwing in Norse style dragon slayers, the effect is magical.
With a setting in Southern Ontario, where I live, the story became almost personal because I recognised exactly where the action was taking place - although this shouldn't make any difference to US readers. Owen, Siobhan, Emily and Sadie were real kids in my mind. Each very different and individual, nothing cookie-cutter about them. There is a tiny, tiny bit of romance going on, just a hint of a suggestion really and it's not where you think it would be, so there's not much to distract you from the action - which includes lots of fire and sword play. Another interesting factor is the music that Siobhan is constantly composing in her head. I really wish I knew more about music so that bit made just a little more sense, although I definitely understood enough.
It wouldn't surprise me if The Story of Owen ended up as a nominee for The Red Maple Award next year ( This is an Ontario award that is decided on by school kids after reading and voting on the nominees - all Canadian books and authors). I'd certainly be happy if it got there. Well done Ms. Johnston, I'll be recommending this one for sure.