How to Train your Dragon – Cressida Cowell – 4 stars
If you’re going into this book thinking it’s going to be like the movie (which is fantastic and wonderful and you should go and watch it), stop. It’s set in the same world, and there are similar characters, but it’s a different story with a different tone. Different, I hasten to add, is not necessarily a bad thing.
Set in a fictional corner of the Viking world, the story follows a misfit called Hiccup, whose only aim in life is to be accepted into his tribe of ‘hooligans’. The only problem is, to do that, he’s going to have to work out how to train his dragon.
Ms. Cowell has a funny and chatty writing style that makes this book both accessible to younger readers and entertaining for older ones. I found the tone not unlike that of Andy Stanton’s books, which, as you’ll know if you’ve read any of my tags ever, I LOVE.
The world building was compact and a total blast to read about; the caricature-like society shone with that special magic of a writer having fun. Although blatantly moralistic, the story had a twist of timelessness that the DreamWorks animators must have picked up on. It’s a little bit silly and horribly anachronistic, but it has heart. It’s the sort of book I’d love to read aloud to a group of children.
Fast-paced and reasonably short, there’s no time to get bored. I really enjoyed seeing a different side to Hiccup and Stoic’s relationship; in the book, Stoic is supportive of his son from the start, and struggles to grasp the concept that his son might actually be a rather unconventional viking.
It’s impossible not to compare the book with the movie, so to finish up the review I wanted to say a few words on that. The film is better. That said, the book is the spark, and the world created by Cressida is really fantastic. The plot changes in the movie were absolutely necessary to make it screen-appropriate, and the character changes, especially in the dragons, made the film the magical experience it is. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read the book; it does mean that you should view them as separate entities and expect to be entertained in different ways.
What are your thoughts? Have you seen the movie and/or read the book?
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!