Handbook for Dragon Slayers

( 2 )

Overview

Like Gail Carson Levine's books, Merrie Haskell's middle grade fantasy adventure Handbook for Dragon Slayers mixes magic, mythical creatures, thrilling action, and a wonderful cast of characters.

Political upheaval sends Princess Tilda fleeing from her kingdom in the company of two hopeful dragon slayers. The princess never had any interest in chasing dragons. The pain from her crippled foot was too great, and her dream was to write a book. But the princess finds herself making ...

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Handbook for Dragon Slayers

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Overview

Like Gail Carson Levine's books, Merrie Haskell's middle grade fantasy adventure Handbook for Dragon Slayers mixes magic, mythical creatures, thrilling action, and a wonderful cast of characters.

Political upheaval sends Princess Tilda fleeing from her kingdom in the company of two hopeful dragon slayers. The princess never had any interest in chasing dragons. The pain from her crippled foot was too great, and her dream was to write a book. But the princess finds herself making friends with magical horses, facing the Wild Hunt, and pointing a sword at fire-breathing dragons. While doing things she never imagined, Tilda finds qualities in herself she never knew she possessed.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers is a deeply satisfying coming-of-age tale wrapped in a magical adventure story.

Winner of the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award for Middle School

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Editorial Reviews

The Horn Book
A haphazard, almost accidental progression of episodes builds smoothly to a lively and cohesive plot arc that will keep readers enthralled.
Booklist
This accessible medieval fantasy features three likable young people, several imaginatively depicted magical animals, and a couple of dastardly villains. As in Haskell’s The Princess Curse (2011), elements from European fairy tales inspire parts of the plot. This engaging fantasy traces the adventures of a bookish but brave heroine.
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Tilda is an extremely likable heroine....Kids with their own physical anomalies may particularly respond to Tilda’s adventures, as will fans of the movie Brave or the How to Train Your Dragon book or movie.
Children's Literature - Renee Farrah Vess
Tilda is regretfully a busy princess with royal duties. But when her cousin Ivo usurps her village of Alder Brook by kidnapping her and telling Tilda her own people fear her and believe she is cursed because of her twisted foot—she decides to escape and leave Alder Brook forever. With the help of her handmaiden Judith and friend Parz, they all decide to try a new glamourous life of dragon slaying. They all quickly realize this is a huge mistake, and set their sights on returning to Alder Brook and restoring Tilda to her rightful place as princess. The second half of the book is where the fantasy elements finally start appearing. Readers who got through the first half waiting for those very elements will notice how the speed picks up once the group is out of Alder Brook and starts facing dragons, new characters, and best of all, the Wild Hunt. This book has a strong female character with a physical disability and she does not let it affect her ambition. Tilda’s twisted foot prevents her from walking normally, and can be a source of ridicule and a nuisance at times, but it never seems to dampen her outlook. She has clearly accepted her foot, and prefers intellectual pursuits, such as her idea to write a handbook for dragon slayers. But she still decides to tag along in person and for field research rather than hear stories later from Judith or Parz. Her initial stubbornness and self-interest prevents Tilda from seeing things from other perspectives, which at times is her downfall. This is a coming of age book as the reader watches Tilda become more open minded and eventually proud of her royal responsibilities. Reviewer: Renee Farrah Vess; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
12/01/2013
Gr 6–8—In this entertaining fantasy, 13-year-old Princess Matilda of Alder Brook yearns to abandon her royal responsibilities and run away to copy books in a cloister scriptorium or, even better, write a book of her own. Tilda never imagines how prophetic this is until she is taken hostage by her evil cousin Ivo, who is intent on wresting ownership of her castle away from her for himself. He believes it will be easy to take control of her principality because Tilda was born with a crippled foot and everyone believes she is cursed. He convinces her that no one in Alder Brook wants her as their princess. Secretly, Tilda is relieved because now she is free of her obligations and can make her own choices. With the help of Parzival, 14, a failed squire, and Judith, her loyal handmaiden, Tilda escapes, and they embark on a quest to slay dragons. During their adventures, the friends are captured and placed under a spell by a Bluebeard-like Lord who has buried seven wives and intends for Tilda to be his eighth. This fast-paced tale celebrates courage and perseverance. It refreshingly portrays Tilda as strong and intelligent yet flawed as she is forced to acknowledge her shortcomings and learn from her mistakes. Fans of Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale will be enchanted.—Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton
Kirkus Reviews
A delightful middle-grade fantasy falters only in its excess of exuberance. Matilda, the 13-year-old princess of a tiny medieval fiefdom, has been lame since birth; consequently, her people consider her "cursed" and fear she will remain unwed. Tilda refuses to show any hurt; after all, she'd rather retire to a convent and write great treatises anyway. But when her only friends, her handmaid Judith and the disgraced squire Parzifal, rescue her from a kidnapping plot, Tilda decides that, rather than return home, the trio should instead begin researching her first work: a Handbook for Dragon Slayers. Dragons, however, prove to be the least of the perils ahead of her….Haskell's sophomore outing is another clever, witty and empowering tale, fluently melding historical fact and legendary material. Tilda is a splendid heroine: Wry, intelligent, sensitive and stronger than she thinks, she conceals her pain behind icy stoicism and discounts her courage and compassion as foolishness. Judith and Parz seem to be charming and supportive companions, although readers scarcely get to know them. There are simply too many intriguing characters and too many dramatic encounters for any to be explored satisfactorily. Tilda is held prisoner no less than three different times, and she faces down supernatural threats, from dragons to the Wild Hunt to an evil sorcerer, all on the way to an epiphany that completely alters her self-perception and goals. While suffering from a surfeit of events and ideas, still a truly terrific read. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062008169
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Pages: 324
  • Sales rank: 228,495
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 770L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Merrie Haskell was born in Michigan and grew up in North Carolina. She wrote her first story at the age of seven, and she walked dogs after school in order to buy her first typewriter.

Merrie returned north to attend the Residential College of the University of Michigan, where she earned a BA in biological anthropology. Her fiction has appeared in Nature, Asimov's Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and Unplugged: The Web's Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy: 2008 Download. She now lives in Saline, Michigan, with her husband and stepdaughter. Merrie works in a library with over seven million books, and she finds this to be just about the right number. She is also the author of The Princess Curse and Handbook for Dragon Slayers.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2013

    I received a review copy of this book from the author, but am co

    I received a review copy of this book from the author, but am completely honest in my opinion.

    Every so often, I read a middle grade book that completely reawakens my inner 10-year-old. This is one of those books--the sort I would have read repeatedly until I memorized it, drawn fan art of, and likely daydreamed myself into. I approached the book thinking that it looked good, but I didn't expect to like it quite so much.

    What makes this book stand out?

    Foremost is the main character, Tilda. She's a princess, but not in a glamorous Disney kind of way. She's been raised to take care of her holdings, to listen to her people's grievances, and write manuscripts--and that's her greatest love. Tilda was born with a twisted foot and has difficulty moving, and feels shunned by many people because of it. She's learned to be rather cold, and somewhat selfish, just to avoid the emotional pain. Only her handmaiden Judith, friend Parz, and a few adults see her as she really is.

    Something that surprised me from the start was the amount of tension. A lot of bad things happen. The kids make bad choices, as do the adults around them. As an adult, I struggle with some kids' books because I find them too predictable. <i>Handbook</i>
    surprised me at every turn, and that compelled me to keep turning pages so I could find out what happened next. I also loved historical fiction as a child, and this book blends fantasy and European history in a very appealing way.

    Ah, and then there was the biggest surprise of all, the one that made my inner 10-year-old squeal with delight: the magical horses. I won't say any more, as I don't want to delve into spoiler territory, but I could have so seen myself as a kid in a mad scramble for my colored pencils so I could draw these magnificent characters. I'm smiling now to even think of it.

    Really, I think that's the grandest praise I can foist upon this book: it made me feel like a kid again.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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