Title: Dragon Rider
Author: Cornelia Funke
Main Characters: Firedrake (male dragon), Sorrell (girl brownie), Ben (12-year old orphan boy).
Meggie (Rating: Exceptional)
I love fantasy books that create where the author can let their imagination run free. This book is about a dragon, Firedrake, on a quest to find a safe home for dragons. The dragon is accompanied by a "brownie" (an imaginary animal who can speak), Sorrel, and a boy named Ben. Later in the book, the characters are joined by an explorer mouse and a tiny human-like creature, Twigleg.
I liked how the characters worked well together, and were welcoming of each other. I liked Firedrake's personality of being kind and open to everybody. Even after Firedrake learns that the tiny human-like creature joined their team to betray them, he still gives him a second chance. I loved how Sorrell cares so much about Firedrake that she is willing to join him on his quest even though she gets airsick easily.
The plot is exciting, and even when it was scary, or when the characters were in danger (like in the encounter with the basilisk), it still felt exciting. Cornelia Funke is a really great writer and is very descriptive. For example, here is the old dragon describing the Rim of Heaven to Firedrake:
Look for a chain of snow-covered peaks encircling a valley like a ring of stone. As for the blue flowers growing in the valley,” he added, closing his eyes,” their fragrance hangs so heavy in the cold night air that you can taste it.” He sighed. “Ah, the memories are faded now, as if they were lost in the mist. But it’s a wonderful place.”
Mo (Rating: Exceptional)
I loved this book for all the reasons that Meggie mentioned above.
For one, Cornelia Funke is a great writer. She cooks up a memorable set of characters, and develops their personalities well throughout the book. The interplay between the characters is also very well done.
There's Firedrake, a dragon who is brave, persistent but also magnanimous. He makes a great role model and main character. There's Sorrel - sharp-tongued and witty, but also fiercely protective of Firedrake. Some of the memorable dialogue is between Sorrel and the other characters. There's Ben, an orphan who hitches a ride with Firedrake and Sorrel. I wish this character had been developed more. Rounding up the cast are a tiny human-like creature ("homunculus") called Twigleg, a mouse explorer named Lola Graytail and last but not least - the villain - Nettlebrand.
The other memorable part of the book is the setting - which covers half the world - starting from the mountains of Scotland, to London, to Egypt, all through the middle-east, to the Himalayas. The author describes each setting well, and adds to the sense of quest and adventure. At each point, the characters meet another set of well-drawn characters - from the villain Nettlebrand, to the archaeologists (Professor Greenbloom and others), to the djinn who can answer any question and lives in an abandoned car in a ravine. This book is such a fun ride, and worth reading multiple times.
The one nitpick about this book is that towards the end of the book, Ben finds himself being venerated at the Buddhist monastery as a "dragon rider" even though he hasn't done much to deserve that title. He was an accidental rider on the dragon. I would have found it more satisfying if the author had made Ben earn his title as a dragon rider.
Still, all in all, a great read. This is worth reading aloud to little kids too.