No Such Thing as Dragons: Tweens will certainly enjoy

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Philip Reeve No Such Thing as DragonsNo Such Thing as Dragons by Philip Reeve

No Such Thing as Dragons, by Philip Reeve, is aimed at a somewhat younger group than his excellent Mortal Engines series, though it has moments that might be a bit beyond that younger target audience.

Set in a medieval time period, No Such Thing as Dragons follows a young mute boy named Ansel who is sold by his father to Brock, the famed itinerant dragon-slayer. As Ansel soon learns, however, Brock doesn’t much believe in dragons, though he does believe in the rewards that come with pretending to slay them. Eventually, the two make their way to a mountain village where something is terrifying the villagers. Is it an actual dragon? A different beast? Something else entirely?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsBrock and Ansel, joined unwillingly by an old con-man acquaintance of Brock who was pretending to be a friar in the village, journey up the mountain to find out, picking up a young girl along the way who had been left as a sacrifice for the beast.

No Such Thing as Dragons has the usual fast pace and concision one expects of Reeve by now. There are few wasted words, yet the settings (especially the mountains) are crystal clear and vividly presented. The characters don’t fall neatly into good/bad categories nor do they remain static; they are complex and fully realized creations rather than sketches or cardboard cutouts. Finally, there’s a thoughtful, serious bent to the story, beyond simple attributes of plot, though the plot itself is engaging and suspenseful.

What might give pause? For younger readers, a few scenes might be problematic: some death scenes, some cruelty, and some references (lightly implied) to Brock enjoying some non-monetary comforts as he leaves Ansel alone to join a woman. There is also a heavy emphasis on Christianity, which makes sense for the setting but which I’ll confess was a little bit off-putting to me, especially early on.

But mostly No Such Thing as Dragons is a concise, thoughtful read that older readers (teens) will probably find a bit young but tweens will certainly enjoy. Recommended.

No Such Thing as Dragons — (2009) Ages 9-12. Publisher: Ansel’s new master slays dragons for a living. He says he’s hunted the monstrous worms all over Christendom and has the scars to prove it. But is Brock just a clever trickster in shining armour? Ansel is sure there are no such things as dragons. So what is the man-eating creature that makes its lair in the crags of Dragon Mountain? Ansel and Brock must climb the ice face to discover the terrifying truth.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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