Reading Level: Middle Grade
Size: 192 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: Borrowed from Library
Rating: 3/5 stars
My son is getting old enough to read middle grade novels with help. So he picked this book out at random at the library. I had previously read Reeve’s Larklight (steampunk middle grade series) and absolutely loved it, so I was interested to see what this book by him was like. It ended up being a slow book with awkward language throughout.
Brock is a man who fakes fighting dragons to make a living, he basically steals money from scared townspeople and pretends to slay their dragon. Ansel is a young boy who stopped speaking after the death of his mother, his father declared him useless and sold him to Brock. Ansel is stuck playing servant to Brock, but it’s better than life with his father. Both Brock and Ansel hear rumors of a dragon harassing a small village at the foot of the mountains. Brock decides to investigate and see if they can use his services, after all everyone knows dragons aren’t real so how dangerous can it be?
I thought the story started out very slow. The language throughout is a bit flowery and awkward. I was reading this with my son (who is 7) and we had to stop many many times to talk about what different and very archaic words meant. There is also a heavy Christian element to the book; characters feel like their actions are driven by God or directed by God. Anything different is seen as coming from the Devil. There is also the idea of people using other people’s fear of God for their own profit.
It was an educational experience (with all of the archaic language and the antiquated view of Christianity) and provided some interesting conversation with my son. However the whole idea of certain people using other’s people faith to manipulate them is one my son had a bit of trouble grasping, and once he did…he was a bit dismayed that people could be so cruel. There are also a lot of very graphic scenes in the novel. For example a girl is put out for human sacrifice and animals are gored and ripped to pieces.
In general the slow pacing made it hard for me to engage with the story and I thought it was fairly boring. The most interesting parts for me were the parts where they climbed the mountain and struggled to survive on it. There are some interesting survival scenarios as our characters struggle to deal with avalanches, extreme cold, and dangerous ascents.
One caveat to the above complaints is that my son, who is new to the middle grade fantasy genre, thought the story was awesome. He is more the target audience than I am, so I should put his opinion in here as well. He loved the idea of a dragon hunt and really enjoyed the dangerous things the characters encountered on the mountain. As I said we had to have a lot of discussion about the words, religious themes, and duplicity of humanity…he enjoyed those discussions as well. The book does have some humor throughout, not a lot, but enough to break the tension of some very dire scenes and we all enjoyed that as well.
Overall not my favorite Reeve book. I enjoyed the Larklight series a lot more. This book is a bit slow and the language did not flow well and sounded a bit antiquated. There are some good fight scenes, some decent humor, and we all enjoyed the treacherous journey up the mountain. However, there are a lot of more mature themes here that required a lot of discussion with my 7 year old son. That being said he loved the book, said it should have 5 stars. My husband and I disagreed and thought 3 was more appropriate. So I guess how much you like the story will depend on your reading experience and age.
This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
– You Read How Many Books? Reading Challenge