No Such Thing As DragonsPhilip Reeve is well known for his steampunk Mortal Engines series for teens and sci-fi Larklight series for tweens, but here he creates an adventure fantasy for younger readers. Ansel, a nine year old mute boy, is sent by his father to be a servant to Brock, a man who travels from village to village earning his living by slaying dragons. Of course, Brock doesn’t really believe that there are really any dragons. He carries a crocodile skull and plenty of armor for show. Brock tells many great stories, and the superstitious mountain villagers and local lords promise to reward Brock for slaying their dragon and alleviating their fears.
written and illustrated by Philip Reeve
NY: Scholastic, 2010
ages 8 - 11
available on Amazon and at your local library
And yet when Brock and Ansel go up high on the mountain they meet a young girl, Else, who was left by the villagers as a sacrifice to the dragon. Somehow, Else has survived and she warns them that the dragon does truly exist. Should Ansel trust his instinct or his master? And how can Ansel get a grip on his mounting fear? Can he be brave and help Else? Will they be able to escape the harsh mountain and the threat of the dragon?
Reeve creates compelling dilemmas and characters, with no clear black and white sense of good or evil. Each character must figure out their loyalties along the way. It's fascinating the way Reeve prompts readers to think about the different perspectives. I loved getting the sense that Ansel started thinking about the events from the dragon's perspective, realizing that the dragon was just a wild animal searching for food in an environment encroached upon by mankind. The mountain settings, inspired by the Lake District in England, are superbly described, as Ansel, Brock and Else fight for their lives. For more background on how the story developed, see Philip Reeve's website.
Reeve also drew pen and ink line drawings for each chapter, a few of which he shared with us here. The illustrations helped me visualize the story, giving me enough details to start me thinking about a scene, and yet not so many that they gave me the whole picture. The scene then started coming alive in my mind as the writing filled in more and more details.
The review copy was kindly provided by the Association of Children's Librarians, and the illustrations were kindly shared by Philip Reeve. If you make a purchase from Amazon through this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.