Friday, October 5, 2018

Handbook for Dragon Slayers - Merrie Haskell

Summary: Thirteen-year-old Princess Matilda, whose lame foot brings fear of the evil eye, has never given much thought to dragons, attending instead to her endless duties and wishing herself free of a princess's responsibilities.

When a greedy cousin steals Tilda's lands, the young princess goes on the run with two would-be dragon slayers. Before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending magical horses, and battling flame-spouting dragons. On the adventure of a lifetime, and caught between dreams of freedom and the people who need her, Tilda learns more about dragons—and herself—than she ever imagined.

Merrie Haskell, author of The Princess Curse, presents a magical tale of transformation, danger, and duty, starring a remarkable princess as stubborn as she is brave. (Summary and picture from

My Review: I heard about this book over at Disability in Kidlit while doing some research for some of my own stories.  This premise grabbed me straightaway--I love children's fantasy stories, and dragons, and the heroine sounded like a good solid character. 

And she was.  She totally was.  And I tell you I am not one to normally volunteer picking up princess stories, so that's saying something.  But this did not feel like a princess story at all (sorry if that's what you were looking for.  Though I've not read it in years, I kept thinking of Dealing With Dragons and its unconventional princess).

This book was quite a fun ride.  It felt historical while also being magical, as the characters reference real places and saints and events (which of course overlap with the saints who tame and destroy dragons from medieval folklore).

Basically, Tilda is one fun character.  Though burdened with the job of her status, she longs most of all to write a book of her very own, even daydreaming about running away to a nunnery so that she will have the peace and quiet she needs to do so.  She finally does get the opportunity to start her book, and is thrown into a slew of other adventures along the way.  And even though her club foot can be a bother, she doesn't let it stop her from writing books, from taming horses and meeting dragons.  It's addressed and dealt with while also not being the main problem, which is great. 

I feel like a lot of stories that have a disabled character focus a whole lot on the disability.  Not that this is bad, it's good to know and understand.  But in many stories like that, their disability is the only thing to them, which is untrue.  Why shouldn't characters with disabilities just have a normal story like other characters?  Sure they have different obstacles to overcome and teach us how, but why can't they be the hero, solve mysteries, go on adventures?  I say they should, and we should have more media as such, so thank you, Merrie Haskell.

We get magic, we get adventure, we get dragons, we even get some fantastical metal horses from the Wild Hunt.  We get all sorts of good and exciting and scary stuff.  And I always love when we get to see something from another side, a major case here being the dragons. 

Definitely a must for any fan of fantasy, dragons, and adventure.

My Rating: Four Stars

For the sensitive reader: has some scary, adventurous elements--the characters are often in danger from real and magical forces, and get pretty brutally injured at one point.

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