I’m still working on closing out all the books I read in 2017 before 2018 hits and the eleventh book in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Train Your Dragon: How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero (Young Adult 371 pages) by Cressida Cowell was one I actually read and finished several months ago.
“High up in the Treacherous mists of the Murderous Mountains, Hiccup and the Company of the Dragonmark are in hiding. The witch’s Vampire Spydragons are guarding the shores of Tomorrow – but Hiccup is determined to become King of the Wilderwest. Can Hiccup dodge the dragons and steal back the King’s Things from Alvin before the Doomsday of Yule? And is there a traitor in Hiccup’s camp who, in the end, will betray them all?”
As usual, 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.
This book begins fairly close to the end of the last book, with the heroes in hiding while they wait for the days to pass so Hiccup can make his way to Tomorrow for the coronation. They hear the cries of a human in trouble and that human just happens to be Snotlout, who has treated Hiccup and his allies quite poorly for the entire series so far. The last book left Snotlout with some realizations about how his treatment of others might impact his own survivability so it was interesting to see him as the beginning of the hero’s quest for this book. Page 24 was one of those pages I marked because the entire page is about whether or not you should save someone who has done nothing positive for you. But here’s the paragraph that actually got me: “‘If you try to save Snotlout,’ warned the Wodensfang, looking very nervous, ‘you will put us all in peril. By being kind to Snotlout, you may be endangering the lives of those who are loyal to you, who have never betrayed you. Sometimes kindness can be cruelty. These are the kinds of difficult decisions that a leader has to make.'”
This is a horrible decision to make, which revolves around saving one human who has been expressly unkind his entire life and therefore risk your own team of those who believe in you, or going back to the safety of your hiding place and ignoring a fellow human in distress. And they do save him, but at the cost of Camacazi being taken alive by one of the witch’s vampire spy dragons. Fishlegs gets understandably upset and he takes out his rage on Snotlout, which is an interesting look at a situation involving bullies. There is no doubt whatsoever that Snotlout has been a bully this entire time and it’s interesting to see his character development as he realizes that being a terrible person might seem like an easy series of decisions to make but it’s actually very lonely and makes things unpleasant in the future. Snotlout gets a feel for what it’s like to be bullied. What’s interesting to me is that this is a really fascinating look at how some people don’t realize how horrible they are to other people until it’s done to them, but once they realize what life must be like for others, the story is often that these people (characters) will try to change their ways. Snotlout says it was a joke and accuses Fishlegs of not being able to take a joke, which is often a common defense for bullies.
A lot of this book is Snotlout’s story. His perspective, his life changes. Why he is the way he is and what he did during his life to do better at the end. Page 271 has a lot about what happened to him. He says: “If I stop being angry, I have to see what I am, and what I am now is what the witch said. I am a treacherous worm. I am worthless, useless, nothing of value. I am not surprised that all those people turned their backs on me.” And because Hiccup gives him yet another chance on page 274, where he says that sometimes people need third, fourth, and fifth chances, that actually made me feel all the things. Sometimes, one chance isn’t enough to learn and get things right. Sometimes, you keep making mistakes again and again and again but eventually, if people who matter give you enough faith, maybe, just maybe, you’ll finally get things right. And then page 307 really hit me hard.
Overall, this book is definitely a high three or a low four on my rating scale. It’s absolutely worth the read and will give you strong emotions for people who have been unpleasant for ten books. I am absolutely happy that I own this book and will definitely read it again in the future.
Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon: How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.