September 22nd, 2014

smirk by geekilicious

Book 82

How to Train Your Dragon (How to Train Your Dragon, #1)How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I knew going in that the book was different than the movie. I didn't expect it to be just the names that the movie used. The book is vastly different, to the point you pretty much won't recognize the characters, especially Toothless.

Hiccup, Fishlegs and the others are going through Viking initiation. They have to steal a baby dragon from the cave. If they fail, they're exiled. Then they must train the dragon to do basically hunting dog stuff, sit fetch, fish etc. If they fail, they're exiled. That's the basic plot.

Hiccup is even more skinny and sort of pathetic because he is thin, intelligent and sucks at sports. Fishlegs is about the same except pudgy. Hiccup is still the son of the leader, Stoic, but he also has a cousin, Snotlout, who wants to be the leader. Snotlout is your stereotypical bully, all brawn, zero brains. And it looks like he might just get his wish. Hiccup is no match for him physically.

As they try to get their dragons, things go very wrong and they are all almost eaten. Snotlout ends up with a Monstrous Nightmare, reserved for the son of the leader and no one steps in to take him away. Hiccup barely got one and only did thanks to his grandfather Old Wrinkly who is something of a psychic. But Toothless is absolutely tiny and laughable.

Training doesn't go well. There is only one rule of dragon training, yell at them. Hiccup isn't good at that but he can actually speak the dragon language, something no one else can. However, it doesn't help him bond much with Toothless. In fact, the dragons are selfish, cowardly and all around not that wonderful. They certainly don't have much charm.

Just when things look their worst, a giant sea dragon wakes up and washes up ready to all of Berk and Hiccup might be their only hope.

Pretend for a moment I haven't seen the movie, I would say that the story is cute enough. It has a good message for young readers. Brains win out over bullying in the end (we all would like to believe that). On the other hand, unlike Harry Potter or Percy Jackson which started with young reader and progressed to young adult, this really is better left to its intended audience. For me it felt like it was meant for 8-12 year olds, which it probably is. They'd enjoy it. As an adult, all I could think about were the huge amount of anachronisms like rugby and dog breeds.

Not taking anything way from a successful series, but this one doesn't really transcend age groups. I'm not even sure why the movie makers bought it other than they must have wanted dragon riding Vikings. Oh and there are no women in this until the very end when we see Hiccup's mother for 3 lines. I rarely say this but this is one place where I thought the movie was better. They're two entirely different beasts so keep that in mind if you pick this up. (and it would be helpful to have an eight year old to share it with).

View all my reviews

Book 169: Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Book 169: Midnight in Austenland (Austenland #2).
Author: Shannon Hale, 2012.
Genre: Chick-Lit. Romantic Comedy. Gothic Mystery.
Other Details: Paperback. 279 pages.

Charlotte Kinder is in need of true escape when she heads from Ohio to Pembrook Park, a Jane Austen-themed retreat in the British countryside. But as it turns out, this vacation is no time to relax. Hearts are racing and stomachs fluttering in a tangle of intrigues - real and pretend, sinister and romantic - increasingly tough to sort out. It's midnight in Austenland, and Charlotte is about to prove herself a heroine worthy of Austen herself. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

This proved different to the first novel, Austenland, as here Hale draws upon the same Gothic romantic tradition that informed Jane Austen's 'Northanger Abbey', so there are mysteries to be uncovered. This was a pleasant surprise and I found that I enjoyed it very much. It was an easy and engaging read full of interesting characters and intriguing situations.

Charlotte proved a delightful heroine that I could easily relate to in her desire to take a break from life into the world of Jane Austen's characters. I rather hope this novel is also made into a film as I feel it would translate well to that medium.

Shannon Hale's web page on Midnight in Austenland - includes links to background on novel, excerpt and a short essay on the Gothic romance.