Review: How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

3 stars – I liked it

The How to Train Your Dragon movies were a beautiful part of my childhood, so of course, when I found this copy of the book at The Bookman, I bought it. I couldn’t wait to read the story that inspired Hiccup’s journey. I started reading this book on June 5, 2022.

Finished on June 7, 2022.

Dragons! What More Could You Want?

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third (though I have no idea how he got to three) is a ten-year-old Viking preparing to take part in the Viking Initiation Test, in which he will either officially become a member of his tribe, or he’ll be exiled to the island of cannibals to die. The test is simple: Catch a dragon and train it to listen to you. The only problem is, Hiccup’s new dragon Toothless won’t listen, and yelling doesn’t work. What’s worse, a massive storm has woken an enormous sea dragon and washed him up on Berk’s shores, and he’s ready to feast.

I went into this book expecting it to be quite different from the movie mainly because when I first bought it, I immediately noticed differences (which is why it’s been unread on my shelf until now). Anyway, I began reading, and there are more differences than I thought. Not that one is better than the other. The movie’s changes definitely made it better for the screen, but at no point in reading the book did I want to put it down out of boredom or dislike.

artwork from the book

The only child characters carried over from the book to the movies were Hiccup, Fishlegs, and Snotlout, and the adult characters were Stoick and Gobber, each of whose personalities were slightly altered. The book also changed their ages. Hiccup is ten, Snotlout is about twelve, and another kid is sixteen, I think. I found it very interesting that they were all doing the same test at different ages, but at least all the kids in the village weren’t just the same age for some reason.

I also liked how in the book, the Vikings were already training dragons, and even so, Hiccup is still different from the rest of them in his methods. Something peculiar was that the dragons (the land ones) were all about the size of large dogs—or, in Stoick’s case, leopards. I found it humorous and interesting that Toothless isn’t so much a mysterious and fearsome beast like a Night Fury, but Hiccup and Fishlegs have made him out to be something like that.

toothless & hiccup; artwork from the book

This is a children’s book, so the interior is styled as such. The font’s a bit bigger, there are illustrations in an intriguing art style, and the style and tone of the writing is playful and somewhat silly at times—and it works.

I admit, there were a few parts in the book that I disliked only because they were less than compelling to read, such as the Fiendishly Clever Plan, which could have been more action-based, or the time they take trudging through the bracken of the island.

Overall, I liked the book, but the plot and storyline weren’t the greatest, which is why I gave it three stars instead of four. I can also partially blame the movie for its deeper and more compelling character relationships and conflicts. The book was a great starting off point, but the movie took it to a whole other level.

This is a great story for children, but even as an adult, I enjoyed it. The book brought me back to my childhood, and even though the movie made some changes to the story, it was funny and heart-racing all the same.

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