I highly recommend Dragonslayer’s Sword by Resa Nelson! This was fantastic as an audiobook and possibly it could be better in printed format. I listened to Dragonslayer’s Sword as an audiobook (which means I need to have vibrant and memorable characters or I get a little lost). It was very cool that the author was also the narrator for this book.
Beginning the book talking about merchants and child sellers is a smart way to start the story. It gives a simple way to describe the environment and the culture of the people. Clearly there will be shocks, if child selling is a normal thing. As Astrid travels with the child sellers and caravan, we learn a lot with an easy flow. Learning through Astrid’s point of view, we have an insider’s understanding, but all the details a newcomer needs.
As we progress through the story, we learn with Astrid. We know she is ashamed of how she looks, and that others are frightened of her looks (making it difficult for the child sellers to make her sale). She is bought by a blacksmith who recently lost his daughter. He is gruff, but also like a father toward her. We learn that she can change her appearance when she reaches puberty. However, we don’t learn why she looks the way she does. There are hints of ideas of why she might be different.
There is a section of the book that more or less fast forwards through a couple decades, but it flows well with the story, keeping the action moving forward and the interest running high. While there is more talk about body changing and how Astrid always affects her looks, we still don’t have a clear idea of why she looks as she does. Further, it is unclear why these people are able to affect their looks. If it is magic, it is the only magic described to this point.
The book steadily builds the adventure, but also Astrid’s knowledge of the world so the reader grows understanding also. There are so many key pieces to understanding Astrid’s history from the “lizards” and eating particular types of meat, to how and why she has the scars she has, to magic, to falling in love and being loved. Who knew “Pigeon” could be such a sweet endearment. From the very beginning of the story, I anticipated the role of dragons and how they might be pertinent to Astrid. I was not disappointed. I absolutely loved the growth of Astrid, despite the confusion of other character’s growth. Astrid is a believable and empathetic character. I imagine I too might have wanted to remain in the cave, and we can all understand not wanting to risk interacting with people again after being hurt.
I would not hesitate to share this book with middle-schoolers of all ages. I think it would be equally appealing to boys and girls. There is very little violence even with dragon attacks and brigands. Religion, if mentioned, is only in passing as a piece of their culture. The language is very appropriate for any classroom or public library. Most importantly the story grows and rushes forward through the entire book. I hope to read more by this author, soon!!