After learning that humans are headed toward his hidden home, Firedrake, a silver dragon, is joined by a brownie and an orphan boy in a quest to find the legendary valley known as the Rim of Heaven, encountering friendly and unfriendly creatures along the way, and struggling to evade the relentless pursuit of an old enemy.
Review: This is one of those case where I don't think I would have enjoyed this book in book form nearly as much as I did in audiobook form. Not that it's not good: it's a fun little fantasy adventure geared towards mid-grade to pre-teen kids, and the interesting complexity of the world meant that it held my attention a lot better than many other mid-grade fantasy novels have. Although it certainly could have been tightened up a bit in places (500+ pages is a long book for this reading level), it never felt particularly draggy, and although there were elements that would have been more interesting if they were left a little bit more morally ambiguous, I can let that go as writing for a younger audience.
However, what really made this book a stand-out for me was the audiobook narration. Brendan Fraser does such an incredible job with the voice-acting that it makes me sad that he hasn't narrated more audiobooks (this and Funke's Inkspell are the only two I can find). He doesn't have a "typical" reader's style or cadence, but he reads into the microphone exactly as if he were reading a bedtime story to his own kids - complete with acted-out sneezes, whispers, grumbling noises, a huge range of consistently well-done accents, even bird noises and other not-strictly-textual sounds. If you'd ask me a priori if I wanted my audiobook narrator making spitting noises and raven squawks into my ear, I would have said absolutely not - ordinarily that kind of thing comes off as over-produced and totally obnoxious. But somehow Brendan Fraser makes it work, and the effect is more charming than annoying, and if it did its job pulling me into the story, I can only imagine how well it would work on kids closer to the intended age range. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: As a book, it would be good for mid-grade fantasy fans, or adults who want a light, well-told fantasy adventure. As an audiobook, it would be perfect for a long car trip with the whole family, or just for grown-ups who miss having someone read them bedtime stories.
Ben joins Firedrake and Sorrel in a grand adventure as they travel the world to find the Rim of Heaven. Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones interested in finding the dragon homeland. They are pursued by the minions of Nettlebrand, who only seeks to kill all other dragons. In a race for time, Firedrake, Ben, and Sorrel find friendship and danger at every turn.
Dragon Rider is a wonderful, original fantasy novel for younger readers, although older ones will appreciate it as well.
Experiments in Reading
Firedrake is a young male dragon who lives high up in the mountains with many other dragons. The dragons have always hidden their existence from humans. The danger draws near and humans are on their way to the area where the dragons live. The dragons need to decide whether to stay and hide from the humans or find a new home. One of the oldest dragons suggests that the safest place to hide from humans would be the Rim of Heaven. The highest mountain range in the world has been talked about for generations. The problem with this is that no one really knows where to find the Rim of Heaven or if it truly exists. No other dragon has the courage to leave and try to find this mountain range, except for young firedrake. So it is decided, true or not Firedrake and his friend sorrel a brownie creature will venture out in hopes of finding the mountain called the Rim of Heaven. Firedrake and Sorrel will travels by the light of the moon. Along the way they make new friends, humans and interesting creatures. All of which are very helpful in this adventure to find the Rim of Heaven. Now the team of three, Firedrake, sorrel, and a young boy named Ben realize they are being followed by the dangerous golden dragon. The golden dragon has only one agenda and that is to destroy all dragons. Firedrake does not want to lead the golden dragon to the Rim of Heaven in case there are dragons living there. Firedrake needs to decide and quick to either pack it in and just go home, or continue on with the possibility of having to fight the golden dragon once and for all.
Cornelia Funke weaves a wonderful tale of the adventure that a dragons, a mystical creature and a human boy have. The strength and courage gained from friendship is what helps to keep the story flowing along. The illustrations in this book are comical and perfect for the recommended age group of 9-12 years. The suspense in this story is weak but the characters are what will keep the reader going. Sorrel with her sharp and sour ways of saying what is on her mind, will keep the reader laughing and turning the pages.
This one is exciting for boys, and has an interesting enough plot without becoming too simplistic. There were shades of Haroun and the Sea of Stories here.
Sorrell isn't secure with the other creatures who join the quest but even she can see the positive connections between their journey and different prophecies.
I read this book with several children and the book sparked discussions about dealing with fear and bullies and what makes a family.
This is a lighter story than Inkheart or Thief Lord.
The story of Dragon Rider itself was quite enjoyable, if a tad long. In this story, Firedrake, a silver dragon, learns that his valley is about to be flooded by humans. An old mentor tells Firedrake about The Rim of Heaven, a fairy tale place where the dragons were said to have originally come from. Firedrake along with his brownie friend, Sorrell, sets off on quest to find The Rim of Heaven. Along the way they meet a variety of characters including the human boy, Ben, talking rats, enchanged ravens, dwarfs, fairies and, of course, the horrible, terrible Golden One, Nettlebrand. This is a story sure to delight pre-teens and up with excitement, bravery and magic.
I read a few chapters of this book to a fifth grade class to see if I could spark their interest in Cornelia Funke's books. I was surprised to see that I was able to keep the interest of the whole class by pausing to asks questions or have them give me a response. By the end of the hour of reading to them, several of the students were asking the teacher if this book was in their library. I also told them that one of the author's books was turned into a movie, Inkheart.
For an extension, I would have the class do a compare/contrast between the book and modern day society. I would also have the students do a research project of the different kinds of dragons. I also think the students would enjoy a scavenger hunt of as many books they can find that involve dragons.
Won Young Reader's Choice Award Winner 2007 Grades 4-6 Pacific Northwest