As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

June 22, 2015



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! (Amazon)


Every dragon slayer owes the Oil Watch a period of service, and young Owen was no exception. What made him different was that he did not enlist alone. His two closest friends stood with him shoulder to shoulder. Steeled by success and hope, the three were confident in their plan. But the arc of history is long and hardened by dragon fire. Try as they might, Owen and his friends could not twist it to their will. Not all the way. Not all together. The sequel to the critically acclaimed The Story of Owen. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Jessica Day George: author and Bookshop Talk host

I was attracted to the first book, The Story of Owen, because I thought it was set in Trondheim, Norway. I thought nothing could be better than a Norwegian dragonslayer! Then I realized that it was Trondheim, Canada. Huh. Well, still, dragons! I figured that the motto of the book, for me, would be, “Come for the Norwegian setting, stay for the dragons!” But it actually turned out to be, “Come for the dragons, stay for Siobhan and Owen, and everyone else in this book because they are your new best friends and you love them all.”

So. Much. Love.

Love for Owen, dragonslayer-in-training, and his family of dragonslayers and blacksmiths, who are trying to bring back the glory days of independent dragonslayers, before it became political. And how do they decide to do this? By pairing Owen up with a bard, Siobhan, for whom I also have …

So. Much. Love. Siobhan is a prodigy who hears musical accompaniment to every minute of her life. Siobhan, who pairs up people (in her head and her compositions) with the instrument that most suits them, is the narrator of these books because she is the bard, and so she tells the stories. Stories about Owen. About Owen’s family. About her family, and their town. Stories about dragonslaying and music and history, all of which are fascinating because this is an alternate world in which Michigan is a ravaged dragon-infested wasteland. In which Joan of Arc was a dragonslayer, and so was Vlad the Impaler, and the Beatles were the first musicians to become popular without singing about dragons. It’s a fascinating world, culturally, politically, historically. Commercial airlines are unheard of, and travel is limited, because any large machines attracts, you know, dragons. Not only has Johnston done a tremendous amount of world-building, but she’s also come up with at least a dozen fascinating dragon breeds, and I loved every minute of it.

I finished the first one and immediately had to pre-order the second, Prairie Fire, which just came out in March. The Story of Owen was on several Best of 2014 lists, and short-listed for a couple of awards, and I expect the same for Prairie Fire. Not only do the books have a great premise, but they’re beautifully written and chockfull of humor, family and political drama . . . and tragedy. The ending of THE STORY OF OWEN had me sniffling, but I was full on sobbing by the end of PRAIRIE FIRE.

Market: YA
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Dragonslaying.
Mature themes: Death. Politics. Owen is raised by his Aunt Lottie and her wife, Hannah. Dealing with life-altering injuries.

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