This week’s book was the ninth book in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Train Your Dragon: How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword (Young Adult 355 pages) by Cressida Cowell.
“A dragon rebellion is coming – filled with the meanest, nastiest dragons in the Archipelago. Razor-wings, Vampire Ghouldeaths, and Tonguetwisters are attacking Vikings and seem to be seeking one soul in particular: Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third! Only a King can save them … and only a champion with all of the King’s Lost Things can be King. In his adventures, Hiccup has collected quite a few ‘things’ himself. But can a scrawny Viking save the entire Archipelago from certain doom?”
There is absolutely no way I can talk about the best parts of this book without massive spoilers. So if you haven’t read this book (and, to be honest, the whole series to this point) and you want to be surprised by the events in this book, I recommend you stop reading this review right now so nothing is spoiled or ruined for you.
One of the things that I like the most about this series is that all the people who have every right to be a hero are the ones shown to be the most lacking as people. Snotlout, who is a large, beefy, Viking youth, should be a hero. Throughout the series, Snotlout is better at all the Viking tasks the Viking youths are trained in and he behaves as they are trained to behave, by being rude and a bully. Snotlout is shown to be one of the least fit potential leaders in all of the Viking tribes, and yet, he becomes chief of the Hooligans at the end of this book because of Hiccup’s slave mark.
Flashburn should also be a hero. He is a brilliant sword fighter and he works on multiple hero quests. But in the end, he’s selfish and focused only on what is best for him. Hiccup is the only character out of all of the potential leaders who continuously uses a variety of brains, skill, diplomacy, and luck to accomplish impossible tasks while also thinking of the welfare of the humans and of the dragons. He is an unlikely hero, but someone whose character is built out of compassion, which makes him a much more worthwhile hero than those who are supposed to be labelled as heroes.
This series just continues to get better and better. There are a couple of places in this story where you think that it’s going to turn out like some of the other young adult fantasy stories with a happy ending and everything, or where things will just magically work out for the hero, like things have in the past. But that’s not how this book works at all. Hiccup does manage to accomplish some really impossible things, as he has in all the previous books, but sometimes, things just don’t work out.
He finds the crown and gives hope to the Wodensfang and he has a good portion of the King’s Things. He wins the sword fighting competition and things look like they might actually work out. Then the witch with perfect timing destroys everything Hiccup has done and everything Hiccup could accomplish.
One of the most moving parts of this entire book is when Fishlegs stands up to all the Vikings and publicly states how he still believes in Hiccup, no matter what. And while Camacazi didn’t turn her back on Hiccup as the rest of the Vikings did, she also didn’t stand up for Hiccup at that moment like Fishlegs did. She was defiant in her own way and she understood when Hiccup drew away the entire dragon horde to follow him and save the Vikings. The loyalty of friends is truly shown when life is at its worst and this entire section was very powerfully done.
At the end of this book, Hiccup has lost everything; his friends, his family, all of the King’s Things, his status as a Viking, his freedom. And still he promises to fight to make the world a better place. Hiccup’s life has never been easy and he still works to do better and to make the world a better place. This is what a real hero looks like.
Overall, this book is easily a high three on my rating scale. I’m happy I own it and I’m positive I will read this book again in the future.
Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon: How to Steal a Dragon’s Sword. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011.