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Gr 4-8-Reeve explores a more "realistic" vision of classic dragon tales in his newest novel. Ansel is a mute boy who is callously sold by his father to be a servant to an itinerant dragon hunter who is happy to have someone who can keep his secrets safe. Brock truly has secrets, and before long he reveals to Ansel that dragons do not really exist, and that he is, in fact, a charlatan who preys on the fears of villagers. However, a book with this title surely has to contain a dragon, and inevitably, Ansel and Brock must face off against the real thing. There is some graphic description of horses and a human being devoured by the dragon. The creature itself is portrayed somewhat sympathetically, as Ansel realizes it is just an animal. The real story, however, is how in the course of this quest, the boy is able to find his voice, both literally and figuratively. This is certainly different from anything that Reeve has done previously, but is still shot through with his trademark imagination and feel for action. It will be eagerly devoured by young readers.-Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In this somber but rewarding tale, a mute boy named Ansel is sold as a servant to Brock, an itinerant dragon-slayer. It turns out, however, that Brock is a charlatan, who travels the countryside looking for superstitious folk who believe they have a dragon problem. He then pretends, for an appropriate reward, to kill their dragon, showing them a crocodile skull as proof of his heroism. Ansel is relieved that there are no dragons, but bothered by the moral ambiguity of his position. Then, of course, the duo unexpectedly must confront a real dragon, "its head... a short, brutal blade, freckled with hard black scales, the spiny ridges over its eyes as rough as pinecones." With their lives in jeopardy, as well as that of a girl the terrified villagers have left as a sacrifice, the two try to defeat the monster. There's no real magic in this beautifully written, understated story, and the dragon may be nothing more than a pterosaur (presumably the last of its kind), but it's still a dangerous beast, and Reeve (Fever Crumb) describes their confrontation with grim economy. Ages 9-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.