Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Story of Owen (The Story of Owen #1) by E.K. Johnston

I struggled with this one. Most of the action takes place off the page. The idea is interesting but the execution made the pacing slow and action secondhand. Owen is the son of two famous dragon slayers that retire to the country. The world is being destroyed by dragons that are drawn to carbon emissions and dragon slayers are the only ones that can protect cities. Owen's aunt, Lottie, is a world-famous slayer that worked for a huge corporation in the city before receiving a serious injury that forced her to retire. In rural Trondheim, Canada, she makes a home and battles dragons on a much smaller scale with the help of her brother and wife. Owen is in training and goes to school where he meets Siobhan McQuaid, a talented musician that he makes his bard. Lottie wants to go back to the old days when dragon slayers protected rural towns for free and were not concentrated in cities with corporate and publicity contracts. When dragon attacks start to pick up at an alarming rate in Trondheim, Siobhan, Owen, and others try to learn the reason and stop their threats.

Teen Siobhan is Owen's bard or poet and tells of his epic battles in a "Once upon a time" frame. At first I thought the book had roots in Icelandic folklore because of Owen's Viking heritage, but then Siobhan would be his skald and there was not much reference to this culture. Then I thought maybe it was going to follow the Viking hero and Beowulf story like "Heroes of the Valley" by Jonathan Stroud. Instead St. George is introduced and Hannah is a smith so I thought the text would lean toward medieval works but it is set in modern times so perhaps it was headed toward a plot like, "Boys of Blur," by N. D. Wilson. The dragons do not talk and are not characters in the book so the "Once upon a time..." really solidifies it as a fantasy with no saga references and a bard comes from the Celts culture.

The bard idea is clever and Siobhan is a musician so it works to some extent. The book at this point started to remind me of "Seraphina," by Rachel Hartman. The bard manipulates the public so that the masses are socialized as to how to behave during dragon attacks. "The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom," spoofs this notion if you are looking for some belly laughs. Owen and Siobhan joke back and forth along with the adults providing some comic relief. What doesn't work is the bard sometimes tells the story twice, is giving information secondhand which removes the immediacy of the action, and the world-building comes at the expense of character development and pacing.

Once the action picks up and I start to settle into the story, whomp, the blithering bard has to tell her tale and halt the movement with a back story dump. I wanted to ring her bells. Maybe if she was Shakespeare I would have been interested, but she is no Shakespeare. This book has won awards and many of the reviewers that I agree with gave it a high rating. I always wonder when that happens what went sour in my filtering system. You'll have to read it yourself to see what you think. I'm a fan of high fantasy, medieval texts, and just about anything but this came across too garbled.

2 Smileys

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