What could be more awe-rifying (“awesome” plus “terrifying”) than riding a dragon on a magical quest to the roof of the world? Such is the adventure that Firedrake the dragon, Sorrel the brownie, and Ben the orphan boy set out on in:
Dragon Rider, by Cornelia Funke (lexile: 710; AR book level: 4.9; 523 pp)
“Seek the Rim of Heaven!” That is the advice of Slatebeard, the eldest of all the dragons, to young Firedrake. With humans about to encroach on the dragons’ hidden valley in Scotland, only Firedrake has the courage to follow Slatebeard’s counsel and seek the dragons’ lost ancestral home, somewhere in the highest mountains of the world. With few clues to follow, he and his brownie friend Sorrel prepare to set out on their quest. Slatebeard’s last words to them are a warning though: “Beware the Golden One!”
Firedrake and Sorrel first travel to a large city to get help from the famous mapmaker (and rat) Gilbert Graytail. To avoid being seen, Firedrake has to hide in an abandoned warehouse. And it’s there they meet Ben, an orphaned boy who, remarkably, is not frightened of the enormous dragon. In fact, he is eager to join their quest.
On their journey the trio will encounter all sorts of mythical creatures, including dwarves, fairies, a basilisk, a sea serpent, a djinn-of-a-thousand-eyes, and a homunculus, as well as various humans. Some are friends who will help; others are enemies pretending to be friends. And one is the “Golden One” that Slatebeard warned them about, a fierce foe bent on destroying all dragons. In the end, the three will not only have to find the mysterious Rim of Heaven, but also rescue Firedrake’s lost kin.
The story is an adventurous quest full of magic and interesting characters. My favorite is perhaps the brownie Sorrel — always hungry, always complaining, but always there to save the day. (If you listen the book on CD, Sorrel speaks with a wonderful Scottish accent.)