An orphan boy fulfilling an ancient legend, a dragon seeking the Rim of Heaven in the Himalayas, and a brownie named Sorrel journey together to find a new home when humans encroach upon the valley of the dragons. The trio encounters a pageant of fabulous creatures, including some who help and some who thwart their best efforts. Opposing them is one of the biggest monsters in all of children's literature Nettlebrand. Created by an alchemist named Petrosius Henbane in 1424, Nettlebrand, a dragon-like creature covered in impenetrable gold plates, is assisted by Twigleg, a homunculus also created by Henbane, and raven spies. Helping the travelers Firedrake, Ben and Sorrel are Gilbert Graytail, the mapmaker; Barnabas Greenbloom, an expert on fabulous creatures; a djinni with one thousand eyes; Zubeida Ghalid, a dragon expert; and Tibetan monks as the voyagers approach the Himalayas and the ancestral home of the dragons. Twigleg stows away in Ben's backpack and becomes part of the quest, spying and reporting back to Nettlebrand. But he is faced with a moral decision: should he continue to spy for his monstrous master, or should he be faithful to Ben, whom he has come to love? Translated from the German, this is Funke's third work to appear in the United States. The Thief Lord and Inkheart were huge successes here and in Germany, and Dragon Rider is sure to equal their popularity. This work will appeal to the fans of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and the many other new fantasy and adventure novels spawned by Potter-mania. Funke's characters are fully developed and brought to life, sure to absorb readers in a thrilling fantasy adventure. The prose is as lively and fabulous as the creatures the author creates, and the novel would be a great choice for parents looking for the next book to read aloud.
A natural for a future movie, this novel transcends the fantasy quest genre with its meditation on the meaning of home. A wholly satisfying book, sure to charm. Dean Schneider teaches middle school English in Nashville.