Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
|Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Although a little disappointing with regards to characters, this is still an exciting adventure quest story that takes readers all over the world on the back of a dragon.|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: July 2017|
|Publisher: Chicken House|
|External links: Author's website|
My daughter first read Dragon Rider when she discovered it in her school library aged about 8. She loved it, so much so that she borrowed it over and over, reading and re-reading it, her head full of dragons. I finally sat down to give it a read myself, excited at the prospect of a good fantasy story. Firedrake is the one, brave dragon from a small dragon community who, when faced with the incoming humans who will destroy their home, decides to go out into the world to try to find the Rim of Heaven, a hidden home for the dragons. There's a far-ranging, adventurous journey, and there are fantasy creatures galore, such as Firedrake's brownie friend, Sorrel, a djinn, a basilisk, a sea serpent and the big baddie, Nettlebrand.
A lot happens in this story, and the action moves around from cities to deserts, to the sea and then the Himilayan mountains. The young human child, Ben, joins Firedrake early in the book, and adds a lot to the emotional side of the story, building his friendship with Firedrake and Sorrel. His past is hinted at (he has no home or family) but we never discover the truth of his situation, which I felt was a little disappointing. I liked him as a character, however, and admired his kindness and loyalty throughout the book.
Firedrake the dragon felt a little lacking in characterisation to me, which was a disappointment. I was glad he wasn't a fierce dragon, killing left, right and centre, but I thought he seemed a little empty and bland. He flies around a lot, but I would have liked to know more about him, and whilst Sorrel the brownie was frequently chattering on I wondered what Firedrake was really thinking. As for Sorrel, I think children probably find the chatterbox brownie much funnier (and less annoying!) than I did as a grown up. There's a lot of humour in her constant chatter, but I personally felt it was to the detriment of deepening the other characters. I enjoyed the mountain dwarves, and the monks they find in the mountains. I also thought that Twigleg the homonculus was an interesting character, and I felt that the difficulties he faced in discovering where his loyalty lay were some of the most interesting parts of the book.
Nettlebrand, the scary character, is some sort of metallic dragon creature, who cannot fly but who can, somehow magically, travel and communicate using water. I did hope that might be fully explained at some point, but it wasn't! He's a nasty character, but I felt he could have been made a lot worse. He does remain a threatening figure through the story, but I personally didn't feel overly worried about him. I did enjoy all the travelling that Firedrake and his companions do, right from their first beginnings when they buy a map from a brilliant rat, through to their meeting with a Djinn to ask for help in finding the Rim of Heaven, as well as a sea serpent who helps them on their way. The action continues at a pace throughout, so that the 400 pages seem to pass by very easily.
Although I felt it lacked some strong characterisation, and the big baddie really didn't seem quite bad enough to me, I am being perhaps an overly critical grown up as it is still a very good adventure story, and one that I would have found thrilling as a child. My daughter still loves it, and it was the first longer chapter book that she really got her teeth into entirely by herself. It set her on a spurt of reading fantasy fiction, and I think it's an excellent entry level book to that genre. It is very long for those just setting out in their longer chapter books, but it is easily readable, simple to follow, and without anything too horribly scary it's safe for solo-reading at night time. I personally think Inkheart, also by Funke, is a much better book (and definitely one to read) but this is a still a good adventure story.
Further reading suggestion: For more dragon adventures, you might enjoy trying The Dragonsitter's Castle by Josh Lacey and Garry Parsons or How to Betray a Dragon's Hero (How To Train Your Dragon) by Cressida Cowell.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke at Amazon.com.
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