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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Dragon Adventure Story Lacks the Magic

(Image from Indiebound)
If 10-year-old Ansel could speak, he'd tell people the truth: Johannes Brock, dragonslayer extraordinaire, is a fake. Although Brock looks the part with his muscular frame, dented armor, and convincing scars, he's never even seen a dragon. In fact, he reveals to Ansel, there is no such thing as dragons. It's a truth the phony hunter will only share with a mute like Ansel - if anyone else got wind of it, Brock's dragonslaying scam would be ruined. Since the boy can't rat out his master, he follows him to the little hamlet of Drachenberg. High in the mountains, say the superstitious villagers, lives a fire-breathing beast who kills their sheep and carries off unsuspecting townspeople. If Brock can kill the dragon, he'll be rewarded handsomely.
Even though he doesn't feel right about tricking people, Ansel's life with Brock is a hundred times better than the one he left behind. So, he'll lay low with his master for a few days before reappearing in town with the corkindrille skull Brock lugs along as "proof" of his kills. Only, their sojourn into the mountains doesn't turn out quite the way they planned. Turns out, there is something hiding up there. And it's up to cowardly Brock, terrified Ansel, and a feisty village girl to take care of the menace. As Ansel comes face-to-face with a beast that's not supposed to exist, he realizes that Brock's lied to him once again - not only is there such thing as dragons, but Brock's got no idea how to defeat the creatures. If the trio's going to escape with their lives, the children are going to have to think of something. And very, very quickly.
No Such Thing As Dragons, Philip Reeve's newest book for middle graders, grabbed my attention with its colorful jacket art. The cover seemed to promise a fun, magical adventure. Did it deliver? Kinda. The story's interesting (if not wholly original), the characters are rounded (especially Father Flegel), and the tale takes at least one unexpected twist (and a bloody one, at that). However, it comes to a predictable end, one that doesn't feel very satisfying for those of us who prefer to see tricksters get their comeuppance. Although it's got some dark points, the story remains fairly lighthearted. Still, it lacks the kind of whimsy that makes fairy tales so charming. Without it, No Such Thing As Dragons remains just okay. It's a quick, fun read, just nothing super special.
(Readalikes: Hm, apparently I don't read many dragon books. Ideas, anyone?)
Grade: C
If this were a movie, it would be rated: I'm going to have to go with PG-13, even though the book's geared toward a younger audience. There's some violence, one suggestive line, and a smattering of profanity, including the repeated taking of Christ's name in vain.
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of No Such Thing As Dragons from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful review! I can't say I've read many dragon stories myself, but I appreciate an honest opinion when they're not up to snuff.


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