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Saturday, May 24, 2014
Handbook for Dragon Slayers
by Merrie Haskell

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.

Review: Handbook for Dragon Slayers is an engaging fantasy story featuring a disabled heroine who is completely awesome. Matilda, or Tilda, a girl who only wants to be alone with her beloved books, is constantly interrupted by her responsibilities as manager of the estate while her mother is away. When her treacherous cousin succeeds in deposing her and she is forced to go on the run, she views it as a relief. She can finally escape the people who, due to her clubfoot, view her as bad luck and unfit to be a ruler. Rather than plan a way to retake her estate, Matilda embarks on a dragon-slaying adventure with her friends in order to get material to write a book of her own.

           Tilda is a complex heroine who is smart and brave while having some very human flaws. Her clubfoot is painful and often forces her to rely on her companions for assistance, and the poor way some of her superstitious subjects treat her has shaped her insecurities. However, she is a character who can think her way out of most tricky situations and whose kindness and compassion serve her well on her journey. Judith, her maid and best friend, is a character who is great in her own right. Far from being the stereotypical obedient servant, Judith is not afraid to tell Tilda harsh truths and it is she who has the initial yearning for adventure. Rounding out the team is Parz, the knight in training Tilda has a crush on and whom Judith relies on for dragon-slaying instruction. Refreshingly, a love triangle between the trio never materializes.

The story itself is a blend of fairytales elements with historical details including the role of noblewomen as administrators, convents as stand-ins for places of learning, etc. One classic fairytale in particular is used, and I will not spoil the surprise but I did enjoy how it was handled. Through these various adventures Tilda and her friends come to realize that dragon slaying is very different from what they imagined and learn you cannot escape your responsibilities. In a way that is not at all overtly preachy or didactic, Tilda comes to reconcile her own wishes with her responsibilities and accepts her duty to her people. All in all, this is a great read for anyone who loves fairytales, historical fantasy, and dynamic characters. 

4.5 Magical horses

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Review: Handbook for Dragon Slayers

Handbook for Dragon Slayers
by Merrie Haskell

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.

Review: Handbook for Dragon Slayers is an engaging fantasy story featuring a disabled heroine who is completely awesome. Matilda, or Tilda, a girl who only wants to be alone with her beloved books, is constantly interrupted by her responsibilities as manager of the estate while her mother is away. When her treacherous cousin succeeds in deposing her and she is forced to go on the run, she views it as a relief. She can finally escape the people who, due to her clubfoot, view her as bad luck and unfit to be a ruler. Rather than plan a way to retake her estate, Matilda embarks on a dragon-slaying adventure with her friends in order to get material to write a book of her own.

           Tilda is a complex heroine who is smart and brave while having some very human flaws. Her clubfoot is painful and often forces her to rely on her companions for assistance, and the poor way some of her superstitious subjects treat her has shaped her insecurities. However, she is a character who can think her way out of most tricky situations and whose kindness and compassion serve her well on her journey. Judith, her maid and best friend, is a character who is great in her own right. Far from being the stereotypical obedient servant, Judith is not afraid to tell Tilda harsh truths and it is she who has the initial yearning for adventure. Rounding out the team is Parz, the knight in training Tilda has a crush on and whom Judith relies on for dragon-slaying instruction. Refreshingly, a love triangle between the trio never materializes.

The story itself is a blend of fairytales elements with historical details including the role of noblewomen as administrators, convents as stand-ins for places of learning, etc. One classic fairytale in particular is used, and I will not spoil the surprise but I did enjoy how it was handled. Through these various adventures Tilda and her friends come to realize that dragon slaying is very different from what they imagined and learn you cannot escape your responsibilities. In a way that is not at all overtly preachy or didactic, Tilda comes to reconcile her own wishes with her responsibilities and accepts her duty to her people. All in all, this is a great read for anyone who loves fairytales, historical fantasy, and dynamic characters. 

4.5 Magical horses

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