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Handbook for Dragon Slayers Hardcover – May 28, 2013

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1St Edition edition (May 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062008161
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062008169
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

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, Trentonα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journal. LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Wicked cousin Ivo imprisons 13-year-old Princess Tilda and plots to seize her family’s estate and castle. Tilda is secretly relieved to avoid returning home, where many of the superstitious locals fear her because she was born with a pigeon-toed and twisted foot. Escaping Ivo’s clutches, Tilda flees with two young friends. They are determined to find dragons and succeed beyond their expectations. After adventures involving magical horses as well as dragons, Tilda discovers that she cares about her home and her people more deeply than she knew. This accessible medieval fantasy features three likable young people, several imaginatively depicted magical animals, and a couple of dastardly villains. A surprising transformation scene provides Tilda with a new point of view and a catalyst for her change of heart. 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. Grades 4-6. --Carolyn Phelan

More About the Author

Merrie Haskell grew up half in Michigan, half in North Carolina. She works in a library with over 7 million books, and finds this to be just about the right number.

Merrie won the Schneider Family Book Award in 2014 for HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS, and was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature in 2013 for THE PRINCESS CURSE. Her third book, THE CASTLE BEHIND THORNS, is a Junior Library Guild Selection. Visit her website at merriehaskell.com

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 20 customer reviews
The exposition and action are pretty balanced, and overall I quite enjoyed the read.
Amber Hoppenworth
These resourceful young people always seem to find what they need, aided by their own fundamental decency and the good people around them.
Amazon Customer
I read probably 4 to 6 books a week and will stop reading one when it fails to keep me engaged.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings on September 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell grabbed me because of that gorgeous cover and of course dragons! Though I have to admit I was nervous about a book that was about slaying dragons instead of thinking they are awesome. Fortunately I was in for a happy surprise with that, though I won't give away too much ;-). There was some weirdness with the setting that kept throwing me out of the world, and I've never been good with non-plot driven novels, but in the end Handbook for Dragon Slayers is a fun book with an excellent premise (disabled MC who still kicks butt!).
Note: I received an ARC of Handbook for Dragon Slayers from a friend. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The main character, Tilda, has a deformed foot. She can get around with a crutch, but it is painful and she has a clear limp. Some in the castle don't treat her well, but there are a number of secondary characters who love Tilda for her wit, bravery, strength, and kindness. This is the first fantasy book I've read with a main character with such a pronounced disability who is well-developed and strong.
Dragons! There are obviously dragons in Handbook for Dragon Slayers and they get really interesting. There is always more to dragons than meets the eye ;-).
A fantasy element I was not expecting were the magical horses from The Wild Hunt. These horses rock and are every horse-loving little girl's dream. They seem to understand human speech, they are huge, but they love Tilda :D.

I'm not really sure what the setting for Handbook for Dragon Slayers was supposed to be. It seems to be an alternate medieval history where the dragons and pagan myths are real, but the crusades are happening and references to Christianity pop in here and there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Samphire on June 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Honestly, the elements in this book could have been specifically ordered just for me: smart girls, adventure, ambition, magic, dragons! So it's no surprise that I really liked the first half of the book, and I absolutely fell in love with the second half, when the magical elements really kicked into gear.

Tilda, the heroine, is wonderful - smart, responsible, willful and determined, with a disability that informs her character but never, ever defines it. Better yet, she spends the book adventuring with two other great characters - one of whom, her handmaiden (and would-be dragon-slayer) Judith, I just adored. Although there are elements of romance hinted at in this book between Tilda and her other companion, the squire (and, again, would-be-dragonslayer) Parz, the strongest relationship arc in the novel is the platonic *sromance* between Tilda and Judith, two very different girls who've always loved each other like sisters but now - through the hardships and adventures they face - slowly come to *understand* each other, too.

(I love sromances! We need so many more of them, just like men and boys get bromances.)

And oh, the horses! The magical horses, from the Wild Hunt! They might be my favorite horses in fantasy fiction, which is saying a LOT.

In other words, I really, really enjoyed this novel. Wonderful, smart, fun MG fantasy adventure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Julia Rios on June 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I received a review copy of this book, and I was very excited, because I loved the author's first book, The Princess Curse. This one would get 5 stars, too, except for the fact that I found it a little slow at the beginning. It was never unpleasant or truly boring, but it felt a little less instantly engaging than The Princess Curse. That said, once it got going, I couldn't put it down! I stayed up all night reading this one, each time telling myself, "Okay, just *one* more chapter..."

Like The Princess Curse, this book is full of really neat historic detail, interesting magic, strong female characters, and great friendships. I loved the main character, Mathilda, who was flawed, but likeable (perhaps more likeable because she was flawed). It's important to note that when I mention her flaws, I am NOT talking about her physical disability, but her attitude. I loved that Mathilda had a bad foot, which made her need assistance with a lot of things, but that this didn't take away all her strength, or her ability to choose her own path and effect change in the world. I also really loved her friendship with her handmaiden, Judith, and the generally complex portrayals of most characters in the book.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves myth, fantasy, dragons, princesses, horses, fairy tales, and fun.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another phenomenal book from someone who is fast becoming a favorite author. Haskell sees the tropes, waves at them, and then turns away from them into a much more interesting story.

Ultimately, it's a story of strength and transformation (sometimes literally, mostly figuratively). The characters are complex and feel real. It's pure fun, until you realize that there's deeper philosophical thoughts hiding underneath the fun.
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By Karen M. on March 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The Handbook for Dragon Slayers is two wonderful books in one. Through several of its pages you get to be a kid; putting aside your chores, sneaking out with your friends to do all the things you've been told you can't or shouldn't do. Better still, you get to get to sneak out into a landscape half history and half myth, seamlessly blended (Merrie Haskell is a master at this - witness her first novel, The Princess Curse).

Then, unexpectedly, you and your friends discover that you're becoming part of both - and that you sneaked out in the first place because something inside you is too big for the life you had before you started, and far too important to ignore.

The Handbook for Dragon Slayers is about transformation. It's about facing outward limitations and going inward to find a way around them. It's about all the different shapes strength can take; shapes like friendship and compassion, self-knowledge, self-worth - and other shapes, far more dangerous.

There are so many places in this book that will make you cheer. I loved watching the young heroes learn who they truly are and what really matters, and then standing up to fight for it. I especially loved one part, about 5/6 of the way through the book, that took my breath away. No spoilers - you'll have to start at the beginning, sneaking out with three young heroes anyone would love to have as friends (even though Tilda might not believe you at first, stick with her. She'll come around).
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