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Hunting of the Last Dragon

Hunting of the Last Dragon

4.0 5
by Sherryl Jordan

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The last of the great fire-breathing dragons has awakened. . . .

Everyone thought all the dragons had been wiped out—until a fierce flying beast appears and leaves the village of Doran in flames. There is only one survivor: Jude, an ordinary man who never intended to be a hero. He'd rather avoid any danger, but a strange, strong-willed girl


The last of the great fire-breathing dragons has awakened. . . .

Everyone thought all the dragons had been wiped out—until a fierce flying beast appears and leaves the village of Doran in flames. There is only one survivor: Jude, an ordinary man who never intended to be a hero. He'd rather avoid any danger, but a strange, strong-willed girl from a distant land has her own plans for hunting the last dragon. Can her courage and cunning help him conquer his fear in time to save their world from devastation?

Sherryl Jordan's The Hunting of the Last Dragon is a gripping story of fantasy, courage, and romance.

Editorial Reviews

Orphaned when a dragon burns his village, Jude of Doran takes refuge with a traveling carnival, where to earn his keep he must care for a Chinese freak. Jing-Wei quickly becomes a friend, and after Jude rescues her from an attempted rape, the two flee the fair. They find sanctuary at the house of Lan, who informs them that it is their destiny to vanquish the dragon. Disbelieving at first, Jude humors Jing-Mei and accepts the challenge. In spite of a predictabile plot, Jordan believably tweaks the setting to create a medieval abbey that coexists with dragons. The structure of the novel establishes a steady rhythm. As the protagonist retells his adventures as a reluctant hero to a mute monk, each chapter commences and concludes with Jude's observant comments to Brother Benedict, allowing the reader to glean information about daily life in a monastery. Some readers might dislike the tone of authorial intrusion, as it slows the pace a bit. Gunpowder and kites figure heavily into the denouement and offer the author a chance to disperse some information about the advanced technology of ancient China, while Jing-Mei's suffering from foot binding provides the opportunity for social commentary on this barbaric practice. The enlarged initial capitals resemble an illuminated manuscript, continuing the medieval motif. The galley's maroon cover does not provide enough contrast with the dragon, but the map is a nice touch. This unique blend of romance and history with dragon-killing fantasy will broaden most collections. PLB
— Beth Gallaway <%ISBN%>0060289023
To quote from the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2002: Few write for YAs with the skill Jordan has at her disposal, as we have seen in her Secret Sacrament and The Raging Quiet. She combines the power of myth with dramatic characters that resonate with modern readers. The story here takes place in England in 1356, before the West knows about the printing press or gunpowder. The West and the East share the mythology of the dragon, with those in England at the time terrified by the thought of a dragon devastating their villages and fields, killing all in its path. Jordan uses the power of the direct narrative, through the mechanism of having the main character, Jude, relate the adventure of hunting the last dragon to a young monk who copies it down as Jude speaks. Jude's own family and home are destroyed by a dragon, just as most believe the dragons have been exterminated decades before. This last dragon goes over the countryside, terrorizing people, killing every living thing in its path. As Jude takes to the road, he meets a young girl who is a freak in a traveling caravan, caged, with strange almond eyes and stumps for feet. As Jude tries to help her, he learns that she is Chinese, from a noble family, whose feet have been bound as is the custom in her culture. He rescues her and together they go across country until they meet up with an old Chinese woman, a healer, who helps Jing-Wei reverse the process on her feet and tells them how they can kill the dragon, if they are brave enough to try. She has some gunpowder stashed away to give them and she also can teach them what she learned about the strengths and weaknesses of dragons from a knight who was mortally wounded in abattle with a dragon long ago. Armed with their own courage, with knowledge and the weapon of destruction, Jude and Jing-Wei set out to hunt the dragon down and kill it. Pages of riveting narrative, as dictated to the monk by Jude, relate their adventures. Let me just add that a kite made of silk is essential to the successful outcome; the knowledge of how to build such a kite could only come from China at that time. The relationship between Jude and Jing-Wei is also an essential element in this successful adventure story, as they struggle to understand each other and as they discover for themselves how special their love is. (An ALA Best Book for YAs.) KLIATT Codes: JS*; Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, HarperCollins, 244p.,
— Claire Rosser
Children's Literature
Jude, lived happily enough in his 1356 English village until it was burned to the ground by a dragon. He wants revenge, but is alone, homeless, and afraid. When he is taken in by folks from a roving circus, he makes friends with its centerpiece, a figure "half lost within folds of scarlet silk, teetering like a child on feet so small they looked to be cloven." This "strange brown elf-child," called Lizzie Little-feet by those who cage her, is really Jing-wei, a young Chinese noble woman with bound feet. Jing-wei is small in stature, but her courage, resourcefulness and wisdom are unlimited. She stoically bears the unbinding of her feet, understands Jude's success will put his disquiet to rest, and her knowledge of gunpowder and kites lead to their eventual success. Jordan's language is rich and evocative. Her descriptions reach all senses and we easily understand Jude's terror as the pair travels through scorched lands where "the air smelled foul, our eyes stung constantly, and dead birds and insects lay all about on the parched ground." This is a book of brilliant pairings-there are two unlikely heroes, a medieval history and fantasy mesh, and culture clashes and blends as East meets West. Jordan combines all these elements into one captivating book. 2003, Eos, Ages 11 to 14.
— Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7 In this multilayered tale set in an alternate 14th-century England, a British peasant lad and a Chinese orphan far from her native Hangchow set out to kill the last fire-breathing beast to survive a systematic extermination. Deeply traumatized after returning from an outing to find his village a blackened ruin and his family dead, Jude is picked up by a traveling fair. His job is to tend to "Lizzie," a young woman with bound feet who is exhibited in a cage as a freak. Amid news of more destroyed settlements, Jude and Jing-wei (her real name) grow close, then escape together, fetching up in the cottage of an ancient Chinese herb woman. She convinces them to take on the dragon, arming them with both practical lore and a goodly store of gunpowder. Grieving for his family, and frequently quarreling with his vexingly strong-minded companion, Jude makes an engaging, reluctant hero. Through his eyes, readers will find Jing-wei admirable, too; not only is she definitely the brains of the operation, but she also has courage enough for two. She's also crazy about Jude, as everyone but he can plainly see. After a close, brutal battle reminiscent of Aerin's fights in Robin McKinley's Hero and the Crown (Greenwillow, 1984), the two repair to a monastery to heal. Jordan shoehorns in yet another plot line by framing Jude's tale as a monk's word-for-word transcription including general banter and complaints about a monastery guest who has become a suitor for Jing-wei. By the end, the scales have fallen from Jude's eyes, and his tale makes absorbing reading despite the narrative artifice. -John Peters, New York Public Library Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a well-realized medieval world, Jordan (The Secret Sacrament, 2001, etc.) introduces one small element of fantasy: the last dragon left on earth. Jude is no accomplished hero, but has a sort of bravery in him alongside a native intelligence and genuine kindness. After his village is destroyed by the dragon, Jude is taken in by Tybalt, who runs a sort of traveling sideshow that includes a Chinese woman with bound feet who is treated like a beast. Lizzie Little-legs and Jude gradually become friends and later partners in their quest to kill the last dragon. This beast has created great havoc in a drought summer, the fire spreading cruelly with entire village populations as victims. A sense of safety is provided by a narrative device that has Jude dictating to a monk long after all danger is over. Lizzie, whose actual name is Jing-wei, provides the knowledge of gunpowder and kites that are used to attack the dragon, as well as other Chinese innovations not yet common in England, such as silk and paper. Jing-wei consistently is the heroine, whose essential knowledge and determination make each step possible. Whether she will remain with Jude or try to return to her home country illustrates the tough choices of even involuntary immigrants and provides some additional suspense. Jordan creates an appealing and sedate romance in an unusual place and time for younger readers than her usual, more complex work. (Fiction. 9-12)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Fear is something I am well acquainted with. When I was a child I was afraid of nightmares and the dark, of bogeymen and fiends; more lately I've been afraid of being a failure or a fool, afraid of enemies, wolves, and hell, and of a witch who held, for a time, power over me; but none of these terrors equalled the fear I knew that day I first stood upon the ashen shore of St. Alfric's Cove, hardly able to breathe for the stench of dragon-fire and death, and certain to my bones that here, in this burned and bitter place, I would lose my life. And not mine only, but the life of my friend, Jing-wei.

If she knew any fear that awful day, Jing-wei did not show it. A long time she looked upon the scorched cliffs, up to the lofty cave where dwelled our deadly enemy. The stone immediately below the lair was black with soot or blood, and a corpse — I could not tell, for distance, whether it was man or beast — hung partly over the ledge. Another corpse lay on the beach not far from us, and that was a man, though I tried hard not to look at it. He was mainly bones burned to ash, and the remains of his hand still held his sword.

"We'll not fail, Jude," said Jing-wei, coming over to me, limping badly on the darkened stones. Her bandaged feet were black with soot, and grey ash-dust lay across her smooth lips and strange brown skin. She was all strange — small, and impossibly delicate considering the task ahead of her. "We'll not fail," she said again, taking my arm and turning me away so I could not see the burned soldier. She did not speak again for a while, but only looked up that savage cliff, her almond-shaped eyes as black as coaland full of secrets too deep for me to read. So still she stood, so firm, so steadfast that — for that moment at least'I believed what she had said. But there were many times when I was sorely plagued with doubt, and cursed the witch who had convinced her that we could do this thing, and counted myself a lunatic for agreeing to it.

I could not bear to look up the cliff, could not bear to look anywhere. I fair shook with fear, I don't mind confessing; and I think I wept as well, for the grief that the smell of dragon fumes and death awoke in me. It was the same stench I had smelled in my own village, after all had been destroyed. For strength I gazed at Jing-wei's face, and saw it still serene, her expression unreadable.

Among her hidden feelings must lie pains as great as any I have borne, for she, too, lost everything, and was a freak in a travelling fair when first I met her. She was called Lizzie then, for even her own name they had taken from her. Mayhap she learned to hide her feelings when she lived inside a cage, poked at by curious children, gawked at, spat at, hated and mocked. It is hard to think that when I first saw her I, too, thought she was not wholly human, but a half-beast with hooves and claws. I know her better now, though I would never claim to know her well. She still is a mystery to me, though we have suffered much, and triumphed much, and together been to hell and back.

But my tale races too far and fast ahead. Mayhap I should begin at the beginning, on that evil night it all started.

I saw the way you rolled your eyes just then, Brother Benedict, and caught the way you dipped your pen, impatient-like, in the pot of ink. Your tolerance, please! Storytelling is new to me, but I shall soon get in the way of it and put my words in better order. I wish that I could write and be my own scribe, then there'd be no need to make this call upon your time. The Abbot knows my story — I told him briefly — and he said Jing-wei and I might remain here at the monastery as guests for as long as it takes for you to write my narrative. He seems to think my tale important, and instructed me to tell it full well, with nothing spared. I told him that I have no alms to pay for hospitality, but he said Jing-wei could help Brother Gregory in the infirmary, mixing medicines and making poultices, and feeding the aged monks; and I'm to work in the kitchen every day between the hour of tierce and noon, to help the cooks get dinner — a decision the Abbot shall soon repent of, I think, when he eats my pastries. And in the afternoons and evenings, so the Abbot said, you and I shall do this work, for what it's worth.

We are ready, then, your pen sharp and inked, and the candles bright enough? I shall begin again, at the beginning.

My name is Jude, son of Perkin Swinnard, who kept swine in the village of Doran. My adventure began on a night soon after summer's start this year. It was a night I remember well in every detail, for it was my last with my family. I was in a bad humour, unhappy with my lot. I'm ashamed and sorry now for those dark thoughts, but shall confess them to you for the sake of honesty. Also, I think some saint in heaven, with nothing better to do, cast his eye across my thoughts that hour, disapproved of my ingratitude, and decided to stir up my pot.

The Hunting of the Last Dragon. Copyright © by Sherryl Jordan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sherryl Jordan is the author of several critically acclaimed and award-winning books, including The Hunting of the Last Dragon, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; The Raging Quiet, a School Library Journal Best Book and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults; Wolf-Woman, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Winter of Fire, an ALA/YALSA Recommended Book for the Reluctant Reader and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and The Juniper Game, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. She is also the author of Secret Sacrament, the prequel to Time of the Eagle and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. She lives in Tauranga, New Zealand.

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Hunting of the Last Dragon 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book back in middle school, and even now I'm still in love with it. It really is an entertaining book, especially with all the hilarious comments by Jude. If you like adventure mixed with comedy and romance, then don't miss out on this one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for summer reading, and found it to be dreadfully boring. You would think that by the title, it would at least be remotely interesting, yet that is not the case...
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was a really great book that kept me entertained all the way to the end.