How to Slay a Dragon by Bill Allen

“Greg held his breath as they passed and silently congratulated himself for not screaming, even if his ability to keep quiet was largely due to the tightness of the hand Nathan clamped over his mouth. In moments the danger was gone.”

Scrawny, scared, twelve-year-old Greg Hart likes to write in his journals about grand adventures. In real life, he is more likely to be seen running at top speed from a bully than fighting one. One day much like any other, he is running away from one of his main tormentors, Manny Malice, when he is magically pulled into the world of Myrth. The people of Myrth tell him they brought him there to fulfill a prophecy.  The prophecy says that “Greghart” (not to be confused, of course, with Marvin Greatheart, who lives in Myrth and is a dragonslayer by trade) will rescue a princess and slay the dragon. This terrifies Greg because he knows he cannot conceivably do either. Greg protests that he isn’t a hero and can’t fight a girl successfully (much less finish this quest in one piece) but he is ignored. Everyone good-naturedly tells him he is being silly, of course he can slay the dragon, rescue the princess and live to tell the tale. They shoo him off onto his adventure and Greg goes mostly because he can’t seem to get anyone listen to him.

Although it starts off a bit slow, Bill Allen’s How to Slay a Dragon becomes a charming fantasy story full of humor and amusing encounters. Greg is a great character because he is practical, realistic and ultimately terrified of everything. He keeps trying to get out of the adventure by constantly pointing out to people the various ways he won’t survive.

Despite his protests, everyone on Myrth believes fully in the prophecy which causes Greg to doubt every decision they make, as each one seems to lead him closer and closer to being incinerated by the dragon. Since he is new to the world of Myrth, he can’t help but look for danger or magic around every corner. In response, the characters of Myrth have a dry sense of humor that is delightful to experience.

(In this passage Greg is getting ready to go meet with the evil Witch and his friends are helping him to prepare.)

“I want you to take this with you” Nathan said, holding out his weathered staff. “Be careful with it though.  I want it back in one piece when you return.”
Greg took the proffered staff and held it out at arm’s length. “What is it?”
“A stick,” said Nathan.
“I can see that. I mean what does it do?”
“It doesn’t do anything. You just hold it while you walk. It helps you balance and hop over puddles and things.”
“Really, Greg,” said Lucky. “Haven’t you ever used a walking stick before?”

This book is a great read for youngins who are looking for a light adventure on a rainy afternoon. A note to young adult literature enthusiasts, it is definitely written for Greg’s age group and may not appeal to all ages. I guarantee though, your 9-12 year-olds will enjoy Greg’s antics and the heaps of trouble he constantly falls into, whether he likes it or not.

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