Book two of the Story of Owen duology
By E.K. Johnston
Available now from
PRAIRIE FIRE starts with Siobhan reintroducing herself and announcing the story she is telling, as is fitting for a Bard. I love the world in these two books - dragon slayers, bards, and an alternate Canada where history went very differently because of dragons. E.K. Johnston clearly thought out the world before she started writing, and she came up with the perfect character to present her words. Siobhan is a musician and a storyteller, and both passions inform the rhythm.
The beginning of PRAIRIE FIRE also lets us know that something big is coming, and that Siobhan and Owen will face quite a dragon. But before they get there, they have to go through a tedious assignment in Alberta.
The events of THE STORY OF OWEN made Siobhan, Owen, and his girlfriend and fellow dragonslayer Sadie suspected ecoterrorists. They've managed to clear their names by sharing their story (in song) on YouTube, but there's been a cost. Siobhan paid the highest. Her hands are burned and still healing, leaving her to relearn how to play music and know some instruments she'll never be able to play again. All three are entering the Oil Watch, not as promising recruits, but as potential rogues the government wants to foist into boring assignments so that everyone forgets they exist.
I thought PRAIRIE FIRE recapped the first novel rather smoothly. You can dive straight into this book without reading the first and still understand the world and the characters quite well. It also helps that it is set in new places, with many new faces, and that the new location has different dragons to fight.
It's hard to say what I liked best about this story. The narration, as I already mentioned, is a major plus. This book is told with style. I love the intense friendship between Siobhan and Owen, and Siobhan's relationship with herself. Losing full use of her hands forces her to reevaluate who she is and what she wants, and she doesn't flinch away from making those hard determinations. She's also firm about not looking for a boyfriend, which is refreshing in a YA protagonist. There's the inventiveness of the world, which ensures my full attention when Johnston already had it at "dragons and bards."
And oh, there's that ending. PRAIRIE FIRE ripped out my heart and left it bleeding. It hurts so much because I can't say that any other ending would be better. This one is so fitting and perfect. But I wasn't expecting it and it hit me like a fire-breathing dragon on a cold day.
PRAIRIE FIRE is often a fun book, and a funny one, but it's true power is that it made me think about things and feel deeply. It's a moving story that belies the clip-art cover.