Book Review: “A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons” by Cressida Cowell

Yup I’m trudging along still through the How to Train Your Dragon’s series. The last two books gave me a bit more hope.

This book feels quite thick but a good chunk of the book, towards the end is a book of Dragon profiles.

The majority of this story is about Hiccup and a library. There’s only one library in the isles, and no one can ever check out a book. (Feels a bit like Welcome to Night Vale) The librarian “The Hairy Scary Librarian” has filled the library with dragons and traps and the people of the isles are not welcome to grace the halls of the library. Which is generally okay because the vikings don’t actually have much interest in reading,

“Books were despised by the Viking Tribes, as they were seen as a horrible civilizing influence and a threat to the barbarian culture.”

They’d prefer to just steal things from one another and boast about who is the best thief. Which is one of the reasons why Hiccup finds himself breaking into the library, because Toothless ruined the copy that the Hooligans had stolen from the library of How to Train Your Dragon which Stoick the Vast was using as his “I’m a better thief than you” challenge against Big-Boobied Bertha. So to make things better and to keep his father from being disappointed AGAIN, Hiccup gathers Camicazi, a dragon her mother stole from another tribe that’s rare and invisible, Toothless, and Fishlegs to try and get another copy of the book from the The Hairy Scary Librarian who is an elder of the Meathead tribe who essentially kills anyone he finds in the library.

One of the things that makes this book interesting is an underlying discussion on banning books in a similar way to Matilda. The vikings of Berk don’t read and thus they miss out on so much knowledge and also by keeping it locked away people who want to learn and read can’t do so. For most of the Vikings they’ve never actually seen a book before and Hiccup has a strong interest in cataloging everything he’s learned about dragons and writing it down, which is something else his father disproves of. Thus confiscating Hiccup’s fledgling guide to dragons.

“‘BOOKS! My Heir, writing BOOKS??’ fumed Stoick the Vast. ‘You are supposed to be a VIKING, Hiccup! THE HORRENDOUS HADDOCKS DO NOT WRITE BOOKS!  Your terrifying Hooligan ancestors would be turning in their graves!”

I think this a common trope in books, to be surrounded by people who don’t approve of books or allow them. Maybe I live in a bubble and everyone around me tends to do a decent amount of reading and have a fondness for books. But I know that this can correlate to other aspects of life. Where parents just don’t understand their kids and it can make you feel like you let them down by having an interest or a passion they don’t approve of.

“Even through his terror, Hiccup was blown away with excitement at seeing so many books in one place at one time. He had scribbled away in notebooks himself, of course, but because books were banned by order of The Thing, the only proper book he had ever really held was that copy of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, which Toothless had incinerated. And he hadn’t been very impressed by that particular book. Not enough words, in his opinion. But here, it was like entering a cave full of treasure. “WOW,” breathed Hiccup, “if you stayed here long enough you really could find the answer to everything…”

I know books still get banned today, for various reasons or another depending on the location, but it’s something I don’t fully understand and never had. I’ve been lucky to live a life where my local library, school library and generally my family didn’t care what I read. There are some books I have censored from the books I want to donate to my old school, but in that case it’s due to the mature content and it being age inappropriate. (I.e. American Psycho doesn’t belong in an elementary school library)  I guess it really depends on the book and the reader.  I’m forever grateful that I can go read whatever I want, as long as I can find it.

“You, dear reader, I am sure cannot imagine what it might be like to live in a world in which books are banned.
For surely, such things will never happen in the Future?
Thank Thor that you live in a time and a place where people have the right to live and think and write and read their books in peace, and there are no need for Heroes any more…
And spare a thought for those who have not been so lucky.”

Have you ever been stopped from reading a book because it’s been banned by someone in your life? What was the book? Did you get to read it eventually?

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