Reviews

Book review: Dragon Rider: The Griffin’s Feather by Cornelia Funke

Several years ago, I read Dragon Rider, a middle-grade fantasy about a dragon named Firedrake and his rider, Ben, and their quest to find the dragons a new home, which I  absolutely loved. Recently, book 2, The Griffin’s Feather, was released in the UK, so I simply had to pick it up.

The story focuses on the efforts of a group of conservationists for fabulous creatures (as they’re referred to in the book), who are Ben’s adoptive family. They’ve just found the last pair of winged horses – but the mare is attacked by a venomous creature and dies, and only she had the power to keep her foals alive.

The stallion agrees to bring the foals to the sanctuary where the conservationists (the Greenbloom family) live, where they discuss possible ways to save the foals. Many important scientists and conservationists for fabulous (and ‘non-fabulous’) creatures chip in with their ideas and opinions, and eventually the only valid option is to use the marrow from a griffin’s feather. Unfortunately, griffins have not been seen by humans in hundreds of years, have a reputation for being aggressive and also hate other animals, particularly winged horses – and dragons.

In an effort to keep the stallion, and Ben’s best friend, Firedrake the dragon, safe, the Greenblooms decide to keep their real goal from them and pretend that the solution is something else (even though their task might prove to be dangerous), so neither of them will try to get involved and put themselves in danger.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved the premise, and it was nice to be back with familiar characters again, along with some new ones. I also greatly appreciated the nods to David Attenborough and Jane Goodall, as well us others involved in conservation and environmentalism. The book is very much a nudge for children (and adults) to think about animals as creatures to be respected and treated with compassion, and to acknowledge the world around us and what we’re doing to it. I wouldn’t say it did it in a preaching way, however – because of the nature of the story, these messages are in it in a very organic way. There’s also a lot of detail in this book about different cultures, species of animal and places – the characters travel to Indonesia, and I was so completely immersed that I felt like I was experiencing it along with them. And of course, the book has a happy ending, too.

I think, overall, that what Cornelia Funke has woven together here is a wonderfully imaginative story, with a strong, yet non-intrusive message, that readers of ALL ages will appreciate and enjoy.

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I’m on Youtube!

So today I did something (kind of) impulsively – I made a video about books. I plan to make more, though I won’t have a specific upload schedule, it’ll be more of a ‘when I have time’ kind of thing, but this is the start to what will hopefully be an interesting Booktube channel.

As with all first videos, there are plenty of awkward moments, but it was fun to record and just talk book talk for a while. And yes, I say ‘fantastic’ a lot.

You can view it here.

Happy watching!

 

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Favourite authors and writing influences

Having just finished reading an early book by Diana Wynne Jones (early as in published in 1975) and then seeing Reflections – her collected essays and thoughts – on my shelf, I had to pick it up and flick through it. Looking at several pages at random, I found myself laughing aloud, as I often do when reading her books, and thought it was about time I talked about some of my favourite authors (really only a handful from a whole sack of rice)…and yes, she is number one on that list.

My first introduction to DWJ was a collection of books from her Chrestomanci series, gifted to me by my grandmother when I was about ten. When I read them at the time, I thought they were interesting, but I know I didn’t fully absorb them properly because my attention was more on Harry Potter, and so I was half-hearted in my reading of other books. Then, shortly after the film Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli came out, I learned that it was based on a book of the same name, written by DWJ. I remembered her writing style, and thought I’d give the book a try – and I was absolutely blown away. It’s very different to the film (I love both, as separate entities) and there was so much humour in it and the characters were so engaging that it easily became one of my favourite books, and still is. I then re-read the Chrestomanci books I had, and couldn’t believe I’d missed how good they really were. Since then, I’ve been steadily adding to my collection of her books, and she really was (I say ‘was’ because, for those of you who don’t know, she passed away in 2011) one of those authors who is consistently brilliant, with inspiring, believable worlds and a writing style that spurs my author envy no end. I really could ramble on about how much I love her all day, but for now I’ll just say, if you haven’t read any of her books yet, pick one up right away.

Next on my list is David Eddings, whose Belgariad series I practically grew up with. It was my first brush with epic fantasy (I’d heard of LOTR, but until the films came out, I wasn’t interested), and his whole magic system of the Will and the Word made so much sense that I wanted it to be real. I also wanted a white lock in my hair like one of the characters, too (Polgara the Sorceress), but then I was only 11/12. I’ve read and re-read this series, and its  sequel, the Mallorean, so many times that the characters are pretty much family, and I will probably always have a copy in my collection. I’ve read some of his other works, too; The Elenium, The Tamuli, The Redemption of Althalus and the companion books to the Belgariad series, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress (I should mention that he worked with his wife, Leigh Eddings, so equal credit should go to her, too, though her name is only on some of his works – apparently a marketing move by the publisher). Unfortunately, now I’ve read more into the lore of LOTR, I can see how many ideas Eddings borrowed, and that does irk me a bit, but I can’t say he outright plagiarized Tolkien because the story and characters are very different. (For clarity, Eddings has a whole system of Gods and backstory as to how the world in The Belgariad was made. Only recently did I discover that Tolkien had his own Gods, too, and Eddings’ really are similar.)

I believe Garth Nix is a worthy third, because his Abhorsen series is a thing of beauty. Were it not for my nostalgic feelings, his work would actually beat Eddings. Anyway, the reason why I love Nix is because of how well-developed his magic system, geography and Necromancy rules are, as well as how relatable his characters are (for me, Lirael in particular – I’d want nothing more than to stroll around in the Clayr’s library). I also like his Keys to the Kingdom series and Seventh Tower series, which are aimed at a slightly younger age-group.

Cornelia Funke ensnared me with Inkheart at the age of 13 (interestingly, the same age as her character, Meggie). I borrowed the book from my school library and gobbled it up so quickly that I didn’t know what to do with myself afterwards. A book about booklovers and characters wandering out from the pages – how could I not love it? (I love the film as well, and for an interesting bit of trivia, Cornelia sent Brendan Fraser a copy of the book, saying that he inspired her character, Mortimer, who he played on screen). After that I discovered The Thief Lord (which is based in Venice, and though I have never been there, I now feel as though I have), Dragon Rider (the sequel of which has just been released in the UK) and Igraine The Brave, all of which are fantastic, not to mention Inkspell and Inkdeath, which complete the Inkheart world.

Unsurprisingly, I have to mention JK Rowling here too, because I am a huge Potterhead and I think she is awesome in her own right – she really did work hard and went through some terrible times in her life, yet she persevered through it all. However, with the other authors mentioned above, their work made me want to write, whereas Harry Potter just made me want to read and be completely absorbed by her world. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I thought I’d just mention it.

So that’s that. As I said above, this is just a sample of my favourite authors – I have MANY more – but it’s getting late and I need to sleep at some point.

Kat out.