Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

This morning’s gym book was How to Train Your Dragon (Young Adult 214 page) by Cressida Cowell.

“Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is a truly extraordinary Viking hero known throughout Vikingdom as ‘the Dragon Whisperer’ … but it wasn’t always so. Travel back to the days when the mighty warrior was just a boy, the quiet and thoughtful son of the Chief of the Hairy Hooligans. Can Hiccup capture a dragon and train it without being torn limb from limb? Join the adventure as the small boy finds a better way to train his dragon and becomes a hero!”

The book and the movie are not very similar. Just to get that out of the way.

I’m not quite sure what I should say about this book, and the main reason for that is because of how much I absolutely enjoy the movie. This is one of those weird times where I’m not positive if my having seen the movie first before I read this book hindered my view of the book or whether my having seen the movie first makes me more willing to forgive some of the concerns I have with the book.

The biggest difference between the book and the movie was the fact that in the book, there are zero female characters. In the movie, the female teenage Vikings participate in the dragon training on equal levels to the male teenagers, and in the case of Astrid, outperforms them in every way. The movie came out in 2010 and the original print of this book came out in 2003 in Great Britain and that may not seem like much time, but equality really has come a long way in that time. So I’m going to ignore that this book has only male characters and I’m going to focus on the things that were more positive in this book.

This book has some standard tropes in it, in the sense that the larger youths are bullies and they particularly enjoy picking on the two outcasts of the tribe, Hiccup and Fishlegs. As the story progresses, it’s clear that the normal Viking way of brute force and loud noises will not work to solve their concerns about giant dragons. And I guess I really just didn’t like how unlikable the dragons in this book are. The Green Death is fun because it’s obviously messing around and the tone for it was interesting. I was hoping Toothless really would be a special dragon instead of just a garden variety dragon, and I was also hoping that Toothless would be a bit more noble, but I think that there’s a lot of room for growth as the series continues.

Overall, this book was a good, fast read and it showed how you can use your heart and your wits to solve problems with a lot better judgment than yelling and screaming and being a bully. It was definitely a trope of the little guy who is born to do great things overcoming peer pressure and a series of trials and obstacles designed to test his ability to be the hero. It’s also along the lines of being true to yourself and that’s how you can become a hero. So overall, it has a lot of really great messages. I just couldn’t get over the fact that this book contained no female characters. With that in mind, I’m glad I own the book, but it’s probably only a middle grade two on my rating scale.

Works cited: Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2010. Original print 2003.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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