I haven’t read a book in this series in a while (I was waiting for the book to come out in paperback, but finally I got impatient), but unlike some other series that end up a little disappointing after some time away, this book is as strong as any in the How to Train Your Dragon series.
It follows the same formula as all the other books–Hiccup and his comrades fall in on some life-threatening bad luck against one of their many archenemies and he must not only help them escape but also return to Burke to save his father in time. What I like about this book in particular is it broadens the world we have already come to know. We meet the Wanderers (specifically, American Natives) who have been captured as slaves, giving larger life to the size of the world we’ve gotten to know. We learn that there is a place where the Vikings sacrifice people to the Sky Dragons.
The book remains just as clever and funny as always. I am continuously impressed by the continued funniness of the series (Norbert the Nutjob wants to found Nutjobland for example) while also keeping to the heart. I like that Hiccup has really embraced his fate as the future leader but that he intends to change things when he does. Toothless had a rather small part in this book as compared to others (though he was still essential to helping them escape) and that was perhaps the only thing I might have liked changed. It might soon be time for Hiccup to have a love interest (maybe Camicazi, maybe someone else). Not something deep and intense, just a tiny crush or something. I can only imagine how funny Hiccup would mess things up trying to impress her.
I am continually impressed by the How to Train Your Dragon series, in large part because Cowell manages to weave in an amusing, fun tone that I have never been able to master in my own writing. She’s just clever without trying too hard.
In this adventure of Hiccup’s (not sure why the format of the title changed but this is the only one that doesn’t begin with “how to…”) it is Hiccup’s birthday but nothing goes the way he wants it to. All he wants is a quiet day, but things quickly devolve as the Hooligans compete with the Bog Burglars to prove who is the better thief. True to their name, the Bog Burglars seem to be winning this one when Hiccup’s dad challenges Big Boobied Bertha to a winner takes all competition. The result: Hiccup must sneak into the not-at-all Public Library to steal a copy of How to Train Your Dragon because Toothless destroyed the copy that the Hooligans had.
We get another adventure with Camicazi, the pint-sized Bog Burglar who Hiccup befriended earlier in the series, and Fishlegs (his less able comrade) as well as new dragons, new villains, and new tribes. Although the characters aren’t the most well-developed (only Hiccup has real motivations, fears, and weaknesses that he actually works on), there are other things to hold onto. The world itself is much more fleshed out than the people though can’t help but wonder why everyone things Hiccup is so incompetent after all that he has managed so far.
Perhaps the best part of this particular book in the series is what we learn about Hiccup’s ancestors. Maybe Hiccup isn’t as unusual and out of place as he first appears.
In book 2 in the series, Hiccup learns that the popularity he earned from saving Berk from the Sea Dragon is shot lived. He and his fellow Vikings are being taught how to be pirates (it involves things like fighting at sea, spitting, and basic burglary) when they discover a coffin containing a man named Alvin the Poor-but-Honest Farmer and a riddle to the treasure of Grimbeard the Ghastly, an ancestor of Hiccup’s who is viewed as the world’s greatest pirate. Yet another person Hiccup can’t quite seem to live up to.
When the tribe decides to search out the treasure, they get more than they bargain for. For one thing, the treasure is supposedly located on Skull Island, where dragons that are considered some of the most fearsome hunters troll. For another, only the true heir and his dragon can find Grimbeard’s treasure, and Toothless shows no talent for finding treasure.
Hiccup discovers many things about himself and once again becomes a sort of accidental sort of on purpose hero. But can he deal with being double crossed? And can he save everyone from the biggest threat they’ve faced (since the Sea Dragon) when he can hardly swing a sword without falling over?
I don’t know if they plan to make the second movie (which is planned for 2013) but I can’t help but wonder how they would change this one to the big screen.
The first thing that surprised me about this book is just how different it is from the movie. It’s entire premise (minus Hiccup going from Zero to Hero Disney’s Hercules style) is completely different. Yes, Hiccup is the son of a great Viking leader and he’s nothing but a scrawny pipsqueak but from there most similarities end. The most remarkable thing about Hiccup in the movie was that he was the first person to ever train a dragon rather than kill it. Not so in this book where all Viking’s capture and train a dragon in order to become full0fledged members of the tribe. If you don’t pass the initiation test, you will be sent into exile. When Hiccup catches himself a puny dragon that is even more selfish and difficult than his tribemates’ bigger and more dangerous dragons, he fears he will never gain acceptance by the tribe. But when the village is threatened by the Sea Dragon, a bigger dragon than they can even imagine, Hiccup finds himself with a chance to show everyone what he’s really made of.
While the primary story was different (sadly, there’s no Astrid and Hiccup is not the only dweeb in the group), the heart of the story is still there. It’s funny and clever and you can’t help but feel for our not-so-hero as he tries desperately to fit in. The others don’t make it easy for him, especially Snotlout who intends to overthrow Hiccup and become the new Viking leader in the future.
When I read the book I couldn’t help but imagine Gobber the Belch’s movie voice as the narrator, but otherwise, this book stands on it’s own. It’s a great book that I really enjoyed. It didn’t have as much of a sad-happy ending but it was still touching enough that you wanted to cheer for all involved.
From the start of the book we know that one day Hiccup becomes a mighty hero and leader, but by the end of the book, we know that time has not yet come. There’s much more ineptitude and excitement to come before Hiccup becomes the Viking Hero. I do hope we get an Astrid-like character soon, I think it would add something to the story.