The Dragon Whistler

The Dragon Whistler
Now available in paperback.


The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey

(2005, Bloomsbury)

Sometimes, being 15 is not the easiest thing in the world. Say you're much bigger than most boys your age, but you aren't very good at football. And you don't have many friends. And your mother has died of cancer, you never knew your father, and you're living with your loser uncle who somehow talks you into helping him steal something from the building where he's the nightwatchman... well, things are bound to go from rotten to worse. Unless you're Alfred Kropp. The things are going to get completely out of control.

I'm not sure why I haven't read this YA action/thriller before, especially given that the thing Alfred and his uncle are supposed to steal is none other than the legendary sword Excalibur (and if you know me, you know that I'm somewhat of an Arthur nut).

A very rich man has told Alfred's uncle that the item in question was actually stolen from him originally. So really, they're just stealing it back. So Alfred agrees to help. After all, they could use the money. But once Alfred figures out how to crack the code to open the secret vault that holds Excalibur, and then is easily able to fight off the mysterious monks who descend upon them, we can tell this is no ordinary kid.

As Alfred is thrust into the role of protector of King Arthur's sword, he discovers who is after it and why he needs to be the one to keep the sword out of the wrong hands. With the help of the remnants of a secret society made up of the descendants from the Round Table knights themselves, Alfred learns things about himself he never would have dreamed were true, including that you don't have to play football to be a hero.

This is an action-packed story, filled with violence and not for younger kids -- despite School Library Journal's recommendation of grades 6 to 8. Booklist puts it at grades 9 -12 and I personally think this is much more appropriate.

There are a handful of sequels to this book as well, and I have no doubt they would all greatly appeal to the high school reader. Despite how Yancy plays off the Arthurian legends, I found myself not as engaged in the story as I would have liked. Maybe it was the way the audio book was read, but I had trouble connecting with Alfred. The story is great, the plot clips along and it's a fun read, but can't say it is a favorite, giving it 3 bookmarks.

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