It's a fantasy, it's long, and it's got dragons in it. Dragon Rider is bound to be another hit book from Cornelia Funke! Ever since the popularity of bestselling fantasies The Thief Lord and Inkheart went global a few years ago, legions of fans have demanded more books from the German author than she can reasonably hope to write each year. So, re-discovering this hefty, earlier novel from 1997 was a logical development--and her keenest readers will devour it as before.
Aimed at slightly younger readers than her previous novels, despite its massive five hundred pages, Dragon Rider is about a brave young dragon called Firedrake who embarks upon a dangerous journey to the Rim of Heaven in the Himalayas--a magical place where silver dragons can rest easy, free from the threat of destruction by mankind and their only hope of sanctuary. The key to its location is a map rendered by a rat who is a master cartographer.
Firedrake is joined on his quest by Ben, an orphaned boy, and Sorrell--a wise-cracking Brownie that is an odd, but ingenious, grumpy kind of fairy. Their journey is not a straightforward one by any means. Created by an alchemist called Petrosius Henbane in 1424, Nettlebrand (a malevolent creature covered in impenetrable gold plates) is their biggest threat--he is intent on destroying them. Nettlebrand is aided by Twigleg, a homunculus who has stowed away in Ben's bag and who is feeding reports on their progress back to his master.
Their exciting encounters are many... It is easy to forgive the narrative's excessive length when readers are gorging on such a wonderfully inventive and readable story from an author who has her readers in the palm of her hand on every page. (Age 9 and over) --John McLay
From School Library Journal
Grade 4-6–Young Firedrake is the only dragon to heed a warning from his colony's senior resident: return to the hidden city at the Rim of Heaven, or suffer imminent discovery and destruction by humans. Accompanied by a feisty Scottish brownie, an orphaned boy who becomes his dragon rider, and a large group of other supporters, Firedrake fulfills an ancient prophecy and safely returns to his ancestral home. Occasional black-and-white illustrations show many of the book's more exotic characters, a plus for young readers who may not know the folklore from which the creatures are drawn. The omniscient point of view follows each member of this ensemble at length, providing the tale with humor and action but also preventing the main characters from fully developing. The company survives encounters with a basilisk, a djinni, a roc, and a sea serpent, as well as an ongoing threat from Nettlebrand, a malevolent being intent on destroying them. Although each of these confrontations is interesting, the sheer number of episodes, the lack of strong central characters, and Nettlebrand's blustering inability to actually hurt anyone make for a story with much less dramatic tension than Funke's outstanding novels, The Thief Lord (2002) and Inkheart (2003, both Scholastic). A well-known author will assure the book's popularity, but the overlong plot is forgettable.–Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT
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