The twelfth and final installment in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Train Your Dragon: How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury (Young Adult 472 pages) by Cressida Cowell was one I actually read and finished several months ago.
The Doomsday of Yule has arrived, and the future of dragonkind lies in the hands of one boy with nothing to show – but everything to fight for. Hiccup’s Quest is clear … But can he end the rebellion? Can he prove himself to be King of the Wilderwest? Can he save the dragons? The stakes have never been higher, as the very fate of the Viking world hangs in the balance!”
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.
Three passages from this book really struck me and I marked them in my book. The first of these happened on page 223, where Hiccup tells the rest of the Dragonmark Vikings about Snotlout’s heroism. They don’t believe Hiccup and they say unpleasant things about Snotlout but Hiccup defends Snotlout. Hiccup works to be the King the Wilderwest needs not because of pride or selfishness but because he understands that someone has to be responsible and someone has to work to make the world a better place. Someone has to believe in those who don’t even believe in themselves. Hiccup says: “I wish I could offer you a King who is greater than I am. I can’t turn into someone else; I can only be me. But I have discovered that I am stronger than I thought I was. I think that I can do this. I think I can be King. And if Snotlout believed I can, then maybe I believe it too.”
The power of faith in each other is such a strong motivational force and most of us don’t even realize it. I’m reminded of an episode of Xena: the Warrior Princess (season 1, episode 11) where she comes across a town where she spent some time as a youth and she finds the leader of a resistance group; someone she knew from before, which turns out to be the Black Wolf, the leader of the resistance. The Black Wolf told a story about how Xena would always climb this tree and told the Black Wolf to have faith. During the resistance battle, the Black Wolf realized that Xena was trying to say that you need to have faith in yourself and your own abilities and not be dependent on other people. At the same time, it’s a lot easier to believe in yourself when someone else believes in you. This final book in the How to Train Your Dragon series shows something very similar.
Probably the passage that hit me the hardest was on page 326: “Once we love, we cannot forget, though the flesh hardens around the wound that once bled, though it be buried in one hundred years of chains and twisted around with the cruel, growing thorns of the choking forest.” This is one of the truest and most powerful parts of this series to me, probably because of where I’m at in my own life right now. I have loved and lost and I still feel that loss a thousand times a day. While I do maintain the hope that someday, we’ll be on speaking terms again if not friends, sometimes, continuing to have faith and hope is really, really hard. Maintaining hope in a world full of bleakness and despair is one of the hardest things to do, and yet one of the most important.
Hiccup spends the entire series believing the best in people and working towards a better world. He sacrifices everything that matters to him to stand for that better world and in the end, after everything he goes through, people believe in him and hope and love win the day. It’s not an easy trip and this entire series is about making a hero the hard way, which is what makes this series so good. I admit to having a lot of reservations about the first two or three books but once I really got going with the series, I enjoyed them a great deal.
Overall, I’d definitely rate this book and the whole series as a high three or even a low four on my rating scale. I’m absolutely glad that I own the entire series and that I’ve read them all. I am highly likely to reread them again in the future and to recommend them to others. I realize they’re marketed for a very young audience but I think anyone with an open mind and heart can get a lot out of this series.
Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon: How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015.