Genre: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
Henrietta, the legendary Dragon Slayer of the Kingdom of Bleuve, can't stomach the thought of one more kill. Yet, in order to save her dying mentor, she must go on one last quest. But will misfit companions, seasickness, and an ego maniacal king derail the quest for the healing stone? And will she be able to cut past her conscience and kill the dragon?
Henrietta is a fascinating character. At 17, she's served in the army, gained renown as a dragon slayer, and walked away from it all. Now, she's made a habit of isolating herself, and while she's an excellent warrior, she balks at killing. Which makes things difficult when set upon in an ambush. The story opens as Henrietta is accosted twice in succession: once by an arrogant foreign knight who demands she accompany him back to his king, who has need of her dragon-slaying services, and immediately after, by a witch who informs her that her old master whom she has been long estranged from is dying. To heal him, she needs the special healing stone one can only win by slaying a dragon.
On this last quest she does not want, Henrietta ends up with a tagalong group of companions she would much rather do without: a girl who needs to be escorted home in return for the witch's favor, a jester who wants to go an adventure with the hero whose songs he sings (poor Henrietta!), and that unshakeable, obnoxious knight who wants to make sure she slays her dragon.
This story will quickly suck you in, even though the action is slow to build. There's plenty of tension--Henrietta is one big ball of tension--and as the story progresses, you begin to understand her more and more. Here's a girl-hero who has been a hero and wants no more of it; she's tired, she's alone, and she's lost her purpose, drifting from town to town and singing her own adventures to earn her keep. And she doesn't want any of it back--but this time she doesn't have a choice, not if she wants to be able to live with herself.
The writing is strong, though the proofreading could have been a little stronger. I did catch a handful or two of typos--not enough to detract from the story, but enough to be noticeable. While there are only a few points of serious action prior to the major climax, the book moves along well, and what isn't sword fighting and sorcery is very strong character development. I did think that we heard about Henrietta's stomach a bit too much, which was more an issue of being made a little too aware of how much she continued to stress and worry over her options and choices. And I thought Henrietta was also a little too slow to grasp what she needed to do in the lead-up to the climax of the book. But, there are plenty of characters who just don't want to see what's before them, so I can understand that.
Overall, this was a well-paced and enjoyable read, with strong character development and a varied cast.
Recommended for fans of epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, fire witches, obnoxious knights, and lost kings.
About the Author
Beth Barany has been making up fantasy and adventure stories all her life. It only took her thirty years to actually start writing them down, then grit and determination to whip them into shape. Her young adult fantasy novel Henrietta, The Dragon Slayer was released Spring 2011. She writes to empower girls and women with her kickass heroines who have to save the world against great odds.
By day she helps authors get their books done and out into the world. She also leads trainings for groups and associations and speaks to groups and conferences all over the San Francisco Bay Area and the United States about motivation, persistence, publishing, craft and marketing.
In her off hours, Beth enjoys cardio kickboxing, stick yoga, reading and watching movies with her husband, author and musician Ezra Barany.