Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
Just doesn't catch fire
on 1 October 2009
I've never read Philip Reeve before: this was my first. Oddly, although I wasn't too impressed by this book, I'm keen to read his Mortal Engines series anyway, because 'No Such Thing as Dragons', whilst well written enough, feels like a side-project of sorts, of a great author burning off some steam but never really fully committed to the book, and as a result it's a sort book that simply doesn't go anywhere.
It starts brilliantly: mute Ansel is sold by his father to be a dragon-slayer's assistant, and on the way to his next dragon hunt, the dragon-slayer, Brock, reveals to Ansel that there's no such thing as dragons, and his act is all a show to swindel money from superstitious townsfolk. But when they arrive at the foot of a mountain, and find that something really is calling from the jagged peaks and killing the neaby village's livestock, just what is it?
Interesting premise, isn't it? Unfortunately, when the plot begins to advance and revelations are made, it all feels a bit...obvious. It's as if Mr Reeve had a great idea but didn't know quite how to finish it. Nothing in this book will surprise you, which is a shame because it's precisely the kind of book which needs to deliver on surprises. The polished writing style and brilliant descriptions of mountains make it the book as a whole entertaining enough. It's just...you get the impression that it's building up to a clever twist in the dragon lore, or some clever reveal at the end that makes you realise something you hadn't noticed all along. But no. I guarantee, come the ending, all you will say is 'Oh.' Or maybe 'is that it?'
Make no mistake, this is enjoyable enough - short, simple and, when all is said and done, a good one - just don't go expecting anything special.