This follow-up to the acclaimed The Story of Owen (2014) is part adventure, part alternative history, part friendship story, part ecological fable and all heroic saga.
Once dragon slayer Owen Thorskard graduates high school, he signs up for his mandatory service in the Oil Watch, and of course Siobhan McQuaid, his bard and best friend, enlists as well. Their previous exploits (chronicled in Siobhan’s songs, now a YouTube sensation) have made the pair unpopular with those in power, so they receive the dreariest, most remote deployment: Fort Calgary. Grueling practice gradually coheres their raw support team into a tough fighting unit—and trusted friends. But are they prepared for the test of the biggest, deadliest dragon of all? This sequel is not as perfectly crafted as Johnston’s debut: The plethora of new characters is hard to keep straight, the minutiae of military training drag on the pace, and promising subplots peter out without resolution. Still, the narrative is held together by Siobhan’s unique voice, which casts every character as an instrument, every event as a melody; all she witnesses is knit together in a symphony expressing universal themes of friendship, duty, loyalty and sacrifice. For all Siobhan’s insistence that she merely channels Owen’s story, it becomes evident that tales are as much about their tellers and that heroism comes in all forms.
Grand, heartbreaking, ennobling and unforgettable. (Fantasy. 12-18)