Meet Firedrake a wondrous dragon, who has set forth on a perilous journey accompanied by Ben, an orphan and Sorrell, a mouthy Brownie. The journey is, of course, beset with challenges and obstacles, not the least of which turns out to be Twigleg, who is riding along with Ben. Beware of Nettlebrand ... a dangerous foe.
The silver dragons living in a valley hideaway have received devastating news: their home is about to be flooded by the hated humans. Fearful and incredulous, most want to stay and either remain in hiding or resist. Only Firedrake, a young dragon, listens as the old and wise Slatebeard describes the Rim of Heaven, which may be the last sanctuary for their kind. On the advice of a rat named Rosa, Firedrake and his companion Sorrel, a bad-tempered Brownie, depart in search of Rosa's cousin Gilbert Graytail, a cartographer with a map indicating the haven's location. Shortly after their arrival in Gilbert's home city, the pair encounters a parentless boy named Ben. Sorrel reluctantly accepts the help of one of the "enemy," and together they locate the rat -- who, despite intense efforts, has not been able to find the Rim of Heaven, and can only provide them with a map of the world.
The threesome set off in search of their destination, but soon lose their way. To make matters worse, Nettlebrand, an evil, dragonlike monster created centuries before, is on the hunt for silver dragons--and has been alerted to Firedrake's location. In hopes of finding and destroying the weaker creatures, Nettlebrand has planted a spy among the young dragon's party. But Firedrake and his companions find allies on their journey, among them a friendly, kindhearted archaeologist who advises them to seek out a Djinn for assistance, and a dragon expert who tells the trio about the Dragon Rider, whose destiny is to return and save the dragons from a terrible fate. (The infiltrator is also having second thoughts about where his loyalties lie, and begins transmitting false information to the monster.) Cleverly, Ben coerces the Djinn into revealing the information they seek but, before the group can reach their goal, Nettlebrand closes in. Firedrake, Sorrel, and Ben must use all their resourcefulness--and some help from their friends--to defeat the evil creature.
Cornelia Funke has spun a magical tale filled with excitement, humor, lovable characters, and surprise discoveries, and topped off by a satisfying conclusion. Black-and-white illustrations by the author at the beginning of each chapter and throughout the novel are delightful added touches to a long but captivating story. A letter from the author, "Who's Who in Dragon Rider," Dragon Tales, and Sorrel's Story round out the narrative. 523 pages. Ages 9-12
Recommended by Barbara Karp, Librarian