The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim

by E. K. Johnston
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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1235

Author: E. K. Johnston (b. ca. 1984)

First published: 2014

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Young Adult Literature

Time of plot: Alternate present

Locale: Rural Ontario, Canada

Principal characters

Owen Thorskard, an adolescent boy who slays dragons

Siobhan McQuaid, an adolescent girl who becomes his tutor

...

(The entire section contains 1235 words.)

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Author: E. K. Johnston (b. ca. 1984)

First published: 2014

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Young Adult Literature

Time of plot: Alternate present

Locale: Rural Ontario, Canada

Principal characters

Owen Thorskard, an adolescent boy who slays dragons

Siobhan McQuaid, an adolescent girl who becomes his tutor

Lottie Thorskard, his aunt, a retired dragon slayer

Hannah, his aunt, Lottie's wife

Aodhan Thorskard, his father, a dragon slayer

Sadie Fletcher, a school friend

Archie Carmichael, a man who believes that the dragons have a nearby hatching ground

Emily Carmichael, Archie's daughter, who joins Siobhan and Owen in their adventures

Plot Summary

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim takes place in an alternate version of our world where dragons and humans have coexisted for as long as history has been recorded. Drawn to carbon emissions and fossil fuels, dragons have played a major role in world events. The author constructs a history in which dragons have factored into everything from World War II to the fires in Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1991. Dragons have also helped to shape popular culture. The plane crash that killed rock musician Buddy Holly in 1959, for example, was caused by dragons. As was the wreck of the iron ore ship Edmund Fitzgerald, later immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot's song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." The state of Michigan has been completely obliterated by dragons, who were drawn there because of the burgeoning automobile industry. The logo of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team is a reference to this disaster, with the tire representing the cars that brought the state up and the wing for the dragons that took it down. According to the novel, the rock band the Beatles' meteoric rise to fame stemmed from the fact that none of their songs mentioned dragons.

The story begins as Lottie Thorskard who was once a feared dragon slayer but—following an injury battling a dragon—is retiring. She moves, along with her wife, Hannah, and nephew, Owen, to a small town in rural Ontario, Canada, called Trondheim. Lottie hopes that, by moving back to a small town, it will help to spark an interest in local dragon slayers once again. At one time every town had a dragon slayer, but many of them have been bought by large oil and fuel companies to serve as their full-time protectors. Owen's father, Aodhan Thorskard, is a feared dragon slayer, but is often away battling dragons elsewhere. His main relationship with his son is over the phone during his routine check-ins with the family.

The story is told from the point of view of Siobhan McQuaid, a girl in Owen's class who is helping Owen with his schoolwork. Siobhan is a smart, precocious girl who is a musician, playing a variety of instruments. Siobhan harbors dreams of somehow making music her life, but she knows this is a difficult career path, as there are not many options for musicians. She is envious of Owen, who, upon graduating from high school, will join the Pearson Oil Watch, a global service of dragon slayers who patrol the world's fuel supplies and battle any dragon incursions that arise.

Siobhan's tutoring sessions with Owen become more and more regular. Her parents are concerned that she is spending so much time with a family of dragon slayers, but Siobhan maintains that she does not have an interest in going into the Thorskard family business. Nevertheless, she begins training with Owen and his aunts. She even manages to see a dragon up close, although it is dead, having been slain by Owen and his aunts before she could get there.

During Siobhan's time with the Thorskards, it is suggested that she become Owen's bard, traveling around with him and recording his deeds in song. Eventually, she agrees and begins traveling with him around Trondheim, recounting his deeds to the people they encounter. They first travel to an event commemorating a dragon attack that happened nearby. Siobhan tells the crowd of Owen's bravery and receives an enthusiastic response. Following the event, they meet a man named Archie Carmichael, who tells them that he believes that the dragon attack stemmed from the dragons protecting a hatching area.

At first, people do not believe that the hatching area exists, as these kinds of events are closely monitored by the government. Meanwhile, Siobhan continues to travel with Owen, being present at his first solo dragon slaying and writing a song about it. The song is performed at their school's Christmas concert, along with video footage of Owen's training. As time progresses, Lottie and Hannah begin training Owen, Siobhan, as well as other children from the school, including a girl named Sadie. The group forms a dragon-fighting militia, preparing themselves for potential dragon attacks.

The attacks continue and the group's investigations into the hatching area (conducted with the help of Archie's daughter, Emily) reveal that the dragons have set up a massive nest on Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron. Owen and Siobhan travel to the island and manage to destroy the majority of the eggs. However, a dragon appears and attacks the two of them. Siobhan manages to defend Owen and also slay the dragon, but at a cost. She is badly burned in the attack and her fingers are so damaged she will never be able to play music again. Her parents tell her she will still be able to write music. She agrees to stay on as Owen's bard as Owen travels around Huron county, still battling dragons.

Critical Evaluation

Although the book is called The Story of Owen, in many ways it is more the story of Siobhan McQuaid. While Siobhan chronicles Owen's rise from high school student to full-fledged dragon slayer, she undergoes the most significant arc. At the beginning of the story, Siobhan is a shy, music student who is uncertain of her future. By the end of the novel, she has gained the courage to battle dragons and, even though that battle has cost her the thing she loves most, she still finds the strength and will to carry on with a new role in her life. While many kids her age would balk at losing the ability to use their talents, Siobhan agrees to continue being Owen's bard and sharing his story with the world.

In many ways, this book traces a path of self-discovery. Siobhan worries about how she can turn her love of music into a career. By the book's end, she has found a way to do just that, although not in the way she expected. The book also chronicles Owen's search for identity, living in the shadow of two prominent dragon slayers—his father and his aunt. By the end of the story, he also has gained the confidence to stand on his own and defend Trondheim as his other family members have done.

Further Reading

  • Arreola, Cristina. "How Madeleine L'Engle Inspires YA Author E. K. Johnston to Keep Fighting Back," Bustle, 29 Aug 2017, www.bustle.com/p/how-madeleine-lengle-inspires-ya-author-ek-johnston-to-keep-fighting-back-79686. Accessed 15 Feb. 2018.
  • Hicks, Jeff. "E. K. Johnston's Long Road to a GG Literary Nomination." Waterloo Region Record, 4 Oct. 2016, www.therecord.com/news-story/6894936-e-k-johnston-s-long-road-to-a-gg-literary-nomination/. Accessed 15 Feb. 2018.
  • Kois, Dan. "Where There's Smoke: The Story of Owen, by E. K. Johnson." Review of The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnson. The New York Times, 9 May 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/05/11/books/review/the-story-of-owen-by-e-k-johnston.html. Accessed 15 Feb. 2018.
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