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Cornelia Funke – Dragon Rider

September 30, 2009

116. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (original text 1997; English translation 2004)

Read By: Brendan Fraser
Length: 11h 35min (528 pages)

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Started: 07 September 2009
Finished: 20 September 2009

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I was looking for an audiobook that was relatively short and not too mentally taxing, plus I knew from listening to Inkspell that I liked Fraser’s narration.

A dragon must find
someplace safe to live without
bringing disaster.

Summary: Dragons have always tried to stay out of the way of humans, so when a construction team threatens to invade their mountainous highland hideout, they must find another place to live. A young silver dragon named Firedrake volunteers to go search for the Rim of Heaven, a fabled valley far to the east – supposedly home to another group of refugee dragons, and so isolated that no humans will ever be able to find it. He’s accompanied by Sorrell, a brownie with a sharp attitude and an insatiable craving for mushrooms, and it’s not long into their travels before they pick up Ben, a young human orphan who helps them out of a tight spot. But that’s not all they’ve picked up: they’ve also attracted the attention of Nettlebrand, a giant golden dragon whose sole purpose in life is to hunt and kill other dragons… and now they’re unwittingly leading him to the one place they thought they could be safe.

Review: This is one of those cases 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.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: The Symposium
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: All was still in the valley of the dragons.

Cover Thoughts: I like the misty mountains, and how the moonlight (important to the story) is implied to be sparkling off of Firedrake’s scales. Having Sorrel and Ben be so tiny is an interesting choice – I didn’t even see them at first, and it makes the dragon much bigger than I think he’s supposed to be. My only real problem with it is that Firedrake looks a little googly-eyed, like maybe someone slipped him some drugs while Ben wasn’t looking.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 30, 2009 6:06 am

    I have this in book form, but I would love to hear Brendan Fraser read it. I think he is such a fabulous actor.

    • October 1, 2009 5:10 pm

      vivienne – Honestly, I think his voice acting is better than his regular acting! It’s pretty incredible.

  2. September 30, 2009 9:33 am

    I’ve been sort of disappointed in Cornelia Funke’s other books, and never read this one. In irrelevant news, she has a lovely speaking voice – I heard an interview with her on NPR once, years ago, and I could have listened to her talk forever.

    • October 1, 2009 5:11 pm

      Jenny – I don’t think I’ve ever heard her speak… maybe briefly on the extras on the Inkheart DVD? I’ll have to see if I can find a clip anywhere.

  3. September 30, 2009 6:19 pm

    I love all Cornelia Funke! I’m so glad she was translated from German.

    • October 1, 2009 5:12 pm

      Cara – She’s got a bunch of untranslated books, too, so I always wonder what I’m missing!

  4. October 2, 2009 7:49 am

    I’ve been meaning to read this for awhile now. I’ve read Inkheart and The Thief Lord and loved both of them.

  5. October 2, 2009 8:10 am

    I really liked this one, though I’ve liked all of Funke’s books so I’m not sure that’s saying much. I listened to it for the first time not to long ago and have to agree that Brendan Fraser does a great job.

  6. October 2, 2009 11:57 pm

    I am glad you liked this. I think I have it on my TBR pile to read someday!

  7. October 23, 2009 9:09 pm

    My daughter snagged this at a library sale a while ago, and she’s been reading it off and on. If I tell her Brendan Fraser is the audio book reader, she’ll drop it like a hat to get the audio. Ever since seeing The Mummy movies and Inkheart, she has a bit of a crush on him. LOL

    –Anna

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