In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not certain how quickly I would have chosen to read E. K. Johnston’s book based on the title. However, a friend of mine recommended it and I am very glad she did.
The story is set in a world very similar to the one we live in — with the addition of dragons. Dragons and humans alike have a taste for fossil fuels. The more industrial an area becomes the more attractive it is for dragons who consume emissions from automobiles, coal burning electrical power plants, oil refineries and so forth. They also consume anyone who happens to be around the carbon emission.
One of the aspects of the book I particularly enjoyed was the author’s clever insertion of dragons into identifiable historical events. She manages this, in part, through assignments given to the dragon slayer and his friend, the narrator, in history class. It is a remarkable way to tell the back story that preceded the event in the novel.
When the book opens Owen is sixteen. He has just moved into the small town of Trondheim with his aunt Lottie, a world-famous slayer, his father and other members of his family. Although he is spindly, awaiting a growth spurt, which will give him the strong body of a slayer, he is learning the skills of a dragon slayer from his family. He is also attending high school and struggling to also complete homework and study for tests.
The narrator is Siobhan McQuaid , a classmate and a friend of Owen’s who has unusual musical talent. Another aspect of the book I enjoyed is the author’s depiction of Siobhan’s internal thoughts, which often take the form of a musical background to the events taking place in front of her.
I found both characters to be believable, likable adolescents who face dragons in addition to more mundane issues. The combination of alternative history and fantasy allows the author plenty of opportunity for humor, commentary on social issues, and exploration of themes including family, friendship and bravery.
I liked this book very much. I recommend it highly.
What have you read lately that you would recommend?