Dragon Rider is an early Cornelia Funke novel brought to the U.S. after the success of hermore recent The Thief Lord and Inkheart. Dragon Rider begins with a young dragon named Firedrake who starts off on a quest for the Rim of Heaven, a possibly mythical land where Firedrake and his fellow dragons hope to flee to in order to escape encroaching mankind whose earth-moving machines are on their way.
Firedrake leaves his valley with his friend Sorrel (a grumpy mushroom-loving brownie) and soon picks up a small helpful crew: a young orphan human named Ben, a homunculus named Twigleg, and a professor or archaeology and fabulous beings. He also receives help from some rats, the professor’s family, and a many-eyed djinn. His journey to the Rim of Heaven is complicated by Nettlebrand, an alchemist’s creation who looks like a giant dragon but whose sole purpose is to destroy all dragons. Years ago the group of dragons that once inhabited the Rim of Heaven fled his attack and he’s been searching for them ever since. Now he thinks he has an unsuspecting guide in Firedrake.
Dragon Rider is clearly aimed at a younger audience than either The Thief Lord or Inkheart. Vocabulary and sentence structure are not as rich or sophisticated, scenes move along more quickly, characters are a bit shallowly developed. On the other hand, Funke actually seems more comfortable writing for this age. Her more recent books, Inkheart more so than Thief Lord, fell somewhat short of their potential, neither completely successful in achieving a sense of darker sophistication. If the goal is somewhat less lofty in Dragon Rider, it is better achieved. While there are no real surprises here and few truly powerful moments, the story carries its readers along smoothly, quickly, and entertainingly. A melding of this book’s sense of ease and enjoyment with The Thief Lord’s darker and more rich sense of atmosphere and character would make for a strong book indeed. Recommended.
Dragons! More: friendly dragons, that you can ride on. My kids who love fantasy novels LOVED this book. I read it too, and found it very good reading for a youth fantasy/adventure. The dragons are dying out and a young boy goes on a long journey with one of the last dragons to save them. I don’t really recommend this for adults, but if you have kids (or nephews or nieces or grandkids or students) in the 7-14 age range who like fantasy, this is a great one that’s not too well known.