How to Train your Dragon
London, Hodder, 2003, 224p
If a book contains dragons, vikings and ridiculous character names (Snotlout and Fishlegs being my personal favourites), you are pretty much on to a winner.
I am ashamed to say that I only found out about How to Train your Dragon following the release of the film. But I have stuck by my rule - I do not allow myself to see the film until I have read the book.
But I was very impressed by the detail of Cowell's story. Things like the profiles of viking dragons, including their colours, hunting ability and fear factor - just like top trumps. The illustrations looked like they had been drawn by Hiccup himself, and there were little blobs of ink marking the pages. But most of all, I loved the fact that, when angry, the characters would yell, "In Thor's name!".
Hiccup's story is a great zero to hero tale. The poor little viking has a big heart and is incredibly intelligent (he can speak Dragonese), but is down on his luck when it comes to more traditional viking traits, such as strength. Fortunately, Hiccup's internal strength shone through - his kindness and hard-work allowing him to come to the rescue and become Hiccup the Hero.
Cowell has created a really wonderful tale of morality. She disguises it under a plot full of magic and action - there is really something special about the way in which she writes. But beneath layers of heroism lies the truth - it's what is inside that counts.