Title: The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim
Author: E. K. Johnston
Series: The Story of Owen #1
Owen Thorskard comes from a family of dragonslayers—the most famous dragonslayer in Canada is his aunt Lottie. After Lottie is injured, she moves with her family to the small town of Trondheim, Canada, to live out her semi-retirement with Owen and his father Aodhan protecting the town and the small towns around it. But the dragon activity is increasing, and without resources from the government, it may fall upon Owen and his friend and bard Siobhan to defend what they love. . .
This book was kind of interesting for having relatively decent prose but terrible worldbuilding and plotting. I’ve never read a story so full of gaping logic errors.
I liked that Siobhan and Owen were able to build a friendship that didn’t turn into a romance. I liked that Owen was a serious and dedicated young man who actually did have a vocation in his family’s dragon slaying legacy, and wasn’t following the typical “rebel against what is supposed to be my destiny” plotline that basically everything uses.
Unfortunately, that’s about all I actually liked.
It’s like the author couldn’t figure out what to do with Sadie and Emily, and so although they’re both kind of important, whenever one is there the other drops out of the story completely. It might have been better to make them both the same character and worked it in that way, or at least keep them both relevant once they’re introduced.
The dragons in modern day life story failed SO HARD for me. As much as I find the central conceit amusing, the worldbuilding is terrible. Everyone has cars and other modern machinery, so presumably they also have guns. Why would anyone fight dragons close-range when there ought to be something that can be fired to, at minimum, shred their wings to ground them, then turn them into mincemeat? Also it’s puzzling why gas cars are still so prominent when they attract dragons. Presumably that would be the sort of pressure that encourages adoption of electric cars even if their efficiency sucks, and electric trains to get from city to city. In other words, you can’t just throw something that major into modern life, say it’s been there all along, and assume modern life STILL LOOKS THE SAME.
Electric vehicles would likely be mandatory, and gas engines would have been abandoned for personal vehicles (and probably heavily taxed to dis-incentivize them) even if electric was only a fraction as efficient, because not dying kind of outweighs other considerations. And car designs would prioritize running on batteries even if every “car” had to look like a pickup with a back bed full of batteries to power it. And most people wouldn’t have personal vehicles unless they were bicycles because a car is an expensive thing to build and replacing it as often as it sounds would drive insurance costs through the roof, even if the small towns would only lose a dozen and not hundreds of vehicles a year.
The story makes a lame attempt to explain why no guns, but it also mentions crossbows just a few sentences earlier, so I don’t think that argument holds any merit. Honestly, I’m still stuck on why, if dragons are so easy to lure, they’re such a problem. So what if they explode when struck by missiles and other dragons come to check it out? So what if they bleed oil? That seems like the perfect opportunity to set up a purge: start a bonfire, lure dragons, explode until they stop coming. Also bullets are not missiles, and even missiles still sound good to me, provided you prepare the killing grounds appropriately ahead of time. And actually, the characters come to almost the same conclusion, which makes everyone, absolutely EVERYONE, look like a moron, because if a 16-year-old can figure this out, adults should have noticed a few centuries earlier. And hey, if dragons bleed oil, that sounds like a local source of fuel to me, as well as a great reason to put bounties on them until they go extinct.
And dragonslayers only being a family business? When people die and properties are getting destroyed? I just can’t buy it. Even if some people aren’t physically or mentally capable of combat, there’s no way small town farmers left without an officially licensed slayer wouldn’t resort to an “I’ll fix it myself” mentality. I asked a friend of mine who grew up on a farm, and her reaction to the story’s “wait for slayers to arrive” solution was to laugh as hard as I was. When something threatened their cows, her dad picked up the shotgun. There’s a scene in the middle with a barn on fire, ponies in the barn, and the dragon eating the ponies. The family is just standing there watching.
And it’s not even farmers. Anyone who’s lost a family member to a dragon would be a good candidate for “I’ll take those dragons out myself, license or no license.” The fact that there’s supposedly such a shortage, and NO ONE IS STEPPING UP, boggles my mind. We’re not talking about brain surgery. We’re talking about killing things.
How I see this actually playing out is more like this. Small town, no “official slayer”, so the farmers get together as often as they need to, set a giant bonfire as bait. Wait with loaded weapons (multiple per person) and plenty of ammo. When dragons fly in, they get shot until dead. Shoot until out of targets. Dispose of corpses. Since this is a stakeout and not a hunt, we can use really big guns in addition to smaller arms. Lots of options.
Also, if your town is getting razed because dragon slayers take 2.5 hours to arrive, people are going to be poor. They won’t have luxuries, because they’ll be constantly spending to replace the basics. Actually, they’d probably just build underground. At that point it would be more cost effective since underground homes wouldn’t attract as much interest from a dragon.
So…. this really ends up reading like someone’s personal gripes against carbon emissions instead of an attempt to build a realistic world.
The book has way more that reads like a liberal checklist:
– Capitalism is demonized (regulation/government is offered as the solution. Ironically, this is despite the fact that the government is clearly shown to be unwilling or unable to help the small towns. But don’t worry, I’m sure MORE government will fix that.)
– Carbon emissions are evil and dragons will kill you for polluting
– The Oil Watch is de facto evil because they’re conscripting all the dragon slayers for a mandatory term of service. Evil oil, yawn.
– Token homosexual character to point out that people are evil for not embracing homosexuality
– Nationalism evil, globalism good (hey, instead of getting mad that people from the first world aren’t going to the third world to defend them from dragons, how about training them up to defend themselves? They are equally capable, you know).
– The plan to provide a dragon slayer for every small town, supported by that town, is called socialism, and Conservatives are specifically called out for promising to do the same and failing to follow through. (To me this sounds WAY closer to how a church functions, with members supporting a pastor through donations. Or in other words, it’s another form of employment. If it’s not voluntary on the who-goes-where OR the donations, which would really just be taxes, THEN we can call it socialism and I would agree.) In other words, another pointless “yay socialism” moment. Actual socialism would be closer to what the Oil Watch is doing, except the towns and not the company would be paying for it.
– The shot that started all the trouble for Aodhan was fired by the Republican Guard strike team (there are no Republicans mentioned elsewhere in the story, and this is taking place in the Middle East, so I don’t see why they’re named like this except as yet another dig at Republicans. And this from a story that takes place in Canada). Also, the strike team, which was killed by Iraqis, has their deaths described as a “small solace” instead of the tragedy that the other deaths were. It’s also indirectly a dig against using guns, since Aodhan just KNOWS the gun is a bad idea but can’t get there in time to stop them.
So the book as a whole fails for me, really hard. The plot only works if you imagine everyone to be extremely stupid and willing to get slaughtered because they won’t defend themselves, and that the method of luring off some dragons to attack the hatching grounds wasn’t thought of by anyone who’s come before. Or hey, why not spoil the hatching grounds ahead of time by lacing the soil with something that will stop eggs from developing, or plant mines so that when dragons land to lay eggs they explode instead? Argh, there’s SO MANY WAYS I can think of that would have improved this. Needless to say, Not Recommended.