Review: The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston

story of owen

The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston

When the world saw Lottie Thorskard fall from a girder, everyone wondered what she would do next.  No one expected her to move to the tiny town of Trondheim and start slaying dragons there with her wife, her brother and his son.  But that is how Owen started attending the same school as Siobhan.  Siobhan is not a popular student, but she gets good grades and loves to play and write music.  None of this should have made her even noticeable by Owen, whom everyone wanted to know better.  Somehow though Siobhan with her biting wit gets invited over to Owen’s home for dinner and Owen’s family including the famous Lottie have a plan that involves Siobhan.  They want her to be Owen’s bard.  Which will involve being nearby when they fight dragons.  So Siobhan must train to defend herself with a sword, learn more about different types of dragons, and she becomes an important piece of Owen’s story herself.

This is one of those books that surprises right from the beginning.  Somehow I didn’t realize that this is a modern-day dragon tale set in Canada.  In this book, the world has always had dragons and they form the heart of literature and song going back into history.  Johnston takes the time to rewrite the lives of famous people for the reader, building her world so successfully that it all makes perfect sense that dragons are here and have always been. 

The juxtaposition between the two main characters is brilliantly done.  But perhaps the very best part is that this is not a romance.  Yes, a male and female main character but no sparks, no kissing, no sex.  Instead they are busy trying to save their community together.  Siobhan and Owen are both vibrant and intelligent.  They have the sort of brilliant dialogue that one would expect from a John Green book.  Except they do it while fighting dragons!  Amazing.

A completely incredible debut book, this takes fantasy and turns it on its head with a thoroughly modern take on battling dragons and extraordinarily deep world building.  This is one of the best and most unique fantasy novels I’ve read in years.

Reviewed from digital galley received from NetGalley and Carolrhoda Books.

2014 Indies Choice/E.B. White Read-Aloud Award Finalists

The finalists have been announced for the 2014 Indies Choice/E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards.  Booksellers across the country will vote on their picks and choose the winners.  Here are the finalists in the children’s and YA categories:


Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin, #2) The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2) Eleanor & Park

Dark Triumph, by Robin LaFevers

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater

Eleanor & Park: A Novel, by Rainbow Rowell

More Than This Rose Under Fire The Summer Prince

More Than This, by Patrick Ness

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein

The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson



Counting by 7s Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail

Counting By 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail, by Richard Peck, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy Rooftoppers The Year of Billy Miller

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee

Rooftoppers, by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Terry Fan

The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes



Crankenstein The Day the Crayons Quit

Crankenstein, by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Dan Santat

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey, by Emily Winfield Martin

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great Warning: Do Not Open This Book!

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, by Bob Shea

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt, Matthew Forsythe