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Book Review: Prairie Fire (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim #2) by E.K. Johnston

Listen! For The Story of Owen has a second – and final – act.

Title: Prairie Fire

Author: E. K. Johnston

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: March 1 2015
Hardcover: 304 pages

Prairie Fire

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.

Stand alone or series: Second – and final – book in the Dragon Slayer of Trondheim duology

How did I get this book: Review copy via Netgalley

Format (e- or p-): eBook

Why did I read this book: Because I loved the first bookThe Story of Owen – so much.

Review:

Listen! For The Story of Owen has a second – and final – act.

Picking up a few months after the tragic, life-altering events at the end of The Story of Owen, newly-minted dragons slayers Owen and Sadie alongside Owen’s bard Siobhan – the first bard in generations – join the Oil Watch, the international organisation that protects the world’s main resources from dragons. Theirs is not an easy journey despite their heroic efforts, for the world they live in and the organisation they are about to join are corrupt. Corrupted in the way they engage with their own history and by how their actions often place more value on maintaining tradition and saving the privileged few.

In this world, an alternate world to our own, history has been shaped by the presence of carbon emission-eating dragons. Everyday life is hard. Dragon slaying might be heroic, but it is also extremely dangerous. This is the type of world-building that is imbued with the type of details that I wish more books would have. Everything has been thought through from how the presence of fire-spitting, acid-throwing, enormous vicious creatures would impact the lives of humans to the choices these humans make. Everything shapes culture, social behaviour, economics, politics.

As Owen’s bard, Siobhan has a mission: to tell the world his story. More to the point, she is to tell the world the way Owen has chosen to create his history and the things that are important to him. As one of the famous Thorskard family, his life is one steeped in tradition and with the power to reach out and change the world for the better: for every town deserves a dragon slayer. Every person deserves to be saved. This is Owen’s mission and that mission is to be embellished and put forward by Siobhan through her music.

And as a music prodigy, Siobhan is all about music and resonances. Her internal orchestra allocates a sound, an instrument to all characters, each of them an integral part of the ongoing symphony of her life. This is something that is smartly replicated in the telling, in how Siobhan refers to other characters in musical terms.

Beyond that, Siobhan’s sacrifice at the end of book one has lingering consequences as she is now disabled and can barely use her hands. This affects not only the minor aspects of her daily life and how she interacts with other people (and how they react to her) but the larger ones: she can no longer play the music she creates. At least not the way she used to.

This might sound super dry but this story is anything but. As much as Siobhan wants you to believe it, this isn’t only Owen’s story. Because her narrative tells us of so many other things, so many aspects of this world, so many historical details. And about herself. Don’t be fooled: this is as much Siobhan’s story as it is Owen’s. It’s about the Oil Watch and how it needs to change; about the incredible group of people that work and fight alongside Owen, Sadie and Siobhan. It’s about friendship, it’s about ecology and politics, and the world, and different people dealing with thing in different ways, and about killing dragons for survival. And it’s fun and funny too but also exceedingly bittersweet and fucking tragic because well, killing dragons is no game.

And add to all of that the fact that this book is full of people of colour, full of LGBT characters (including Siobhan, whom I read as asexual) and an incredible assortment of amazing female characters and boom, here there be an orchestra of awesome.

Listen! This duology is one of the best I’ve read lately.

Rating: 8 – Excellent and a strong contender for best of the year.

Buy the Book:

(click on the links to purchase)

Book Depository UK amazon_uk

Ebook available for kindle US, nook & iBooks

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2 Comments

  • Kate K.F.
    February 26, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I was able to pick up the first book and the sequel at ALA Midwinter thanks to your amazing review and loved them. I want to give everyone I know copies of these books. The quality of the world and character building is fantastic and I actually gave my copy of the Story of Owen to friends in Michigan. It was great to have a setting that wasn’t the coast and had such a strong sense of place.

  • Fangirl Happy Hour, Episode #5 – “Over the Top and Surreal” | Fangirl Happy Hour
    December 31, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    […] 1:02:03 Ana: The Story of Owen and Prairie Fire by EK Johnston Renay: On The Other Side of a Downward Spiral by […]

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