Sunday, June 22, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell)

How to Train Your Dragon
(The How to Train Your Dragon series, Book 1)
Cressida Cowell
Fiction, YA Fantasy
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: Bards - what bards still exist - remember Hiccup Horrendus Haddock the Third as one of the last great Heroes, from the days when the Vikings of Berk still caught and trained dragons to do their bidding. They manage to conveniently forget that Hiccup, despite being the son of the great Stoick the Vast of the Hairy Hooligan Tribe, was once a scrawny, overlooked runt of a boy... a boy who, when sent to collect a young dragon to train as part of his tribal initiation rites, grabbed the smallest and most stubborn little beast anyone had ever set eyes on. But the path to Heroism isn't always about bashing in brains or shouting the loudest. Here, recorded by Hiccup himself, is the story of one boy taking the Hard Way to Heroism, interspersed with notes on dragons and Hiccup's sketches.

REVIEW: This series forms the basis of one of my favorite movies of all time... and, had I read this book first, I might not have watched it. Geared toward a much younger audience, Hiccup's tale revels in references to snot and poo and other bodily emissions, not to mention dragonloads of anachronistic references and a slapstick-heavy sense of humor. Toothless, Hiccup's unprepossessing Common or Garden Dragon, is a selfish jerk, but then all dragons prove to be amoral, cruel, and self-interested beasts. Buried deep beneath the crudity, I found glimmers of depth and interest... glimmers that seem strangely out of place paired with so much goofy shallowness. The vast green sea dragon that threatens the island is a particularly nasty creation, a riddling and philosophical monster in the vein of Tolkien's Smaug. The scribbled sketches and notes interrupt the flow of the narrative - and, at one point, directly contradict the text - but children might find them fun. On its own level, for younger readers especially, it's not a bad story of underdogs making good and the power of kindness over brute force. Personally, I much prefer what DreamWorks has done with the movies.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville) - My Review
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake) - My Review
The Dragonling Collector's Edition, Volume 1 (Jackie French Koller) - My Review

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