A Perfect Example of Characterization | Review of ‘How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero’ (HTTYD, #11)


By: Cynthia Ayala

Hiccup and the Company of the Dragonmark are in hiding as Hiccups mother searches high and low for the lost things, the treasures that mark the next King of the Wildewest. Alvin the Treacherous and his witch mother are guarding the shores of Tomorrow, hoping to steal and gather all the lost things as they figure out how to dispose of Hiccup. But with time running out and with the Dragons and Alvin’s league after him, Hiccup has quite the challenge ahead of him, and with a traitor lurking in their midst, will Hiccup make it or lose someone close to his heart?

How to Betray a Dragon’s Hero is the eleventh novel in the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series written by Cressida Cowell. Published on November 5, 2013 by Little, Brown and Company, the novel is a children’s fantasy fiction novel that follows Hiccup and his pals on an adventure to steal back the lost things from Alvin the Treacherous.

Much like with the Harry Potter novels, as the kids grow up, the adventures get darker. However, that is life, it is not all peaches and cream, there is a lot of struggle in the world but that doesn’t mean giving up hope in the face of darkness. That is the central motif about this novel, what Cowell tapped into as she was writing this story.

Picking up where the last novel left off and following the devastating events that sent poor Hiccup and his compatriots into hiding while his mother hunts for the lost things. But of course, a scream draws Hiccup and his two best friends, are drawn out. That seems to be the new typical norm regarding young adult novels, packs travel in threes. Thankfully, Cowell does not use it as a clutch for the story. It is grounded and humorous how Cowell has built this trio of friends. They are a very distinct trio of friends and during the whole opening when they go and investigate the cries for help, Cowell paints Camicazi, both literally with illustrations and with her words as this very colorful character. She, Camicazi, is the recklessly brave and ingenious bog burglar who has such a loud voice within the novel. Readers will read her as such a loud character, who does not know the meaning of whispering. That is how lively Cowell makes this character showing how much effort she puts into the characters. Of course, the illustrations do not hurt illustrations that are far from a piece from the Louvre. The look childish but that helps set the mode for readers, bringing out their inner child.

Camicazi isn’t the only character who is so alive within the pages. As readers journey alongside Hiccup, they feel his struggles and his loss as much as the character. That circles back to one of the more surprising aspects of this novel. Cowell inserted so much depth into the character Snoutlout, Hiccup’s cousin, who has been nothing more than a bully. That changes here. In one powerful chapter, Cowell dives into who this character is behind the brute facade. Repeatedly, the word “useless” is used, but not once does it sound redundant because the character is using it to showcase his broken interior that he tries so hard to cover up. It is incredibly impactful and heartbreakingly real how it is written and constructed, building on top of itself until it finally explodes.

Alongside that, it’s fun and adventurous and the fact that even in the face of complete annihilation Hiccup, our hero, still looks to the bright side and holds onto hope. That is a lesson that all readers should hold onto, one that will surely pass onto the readers through the humor and adventure within this entertaining novel. (★★★☆☆ | B+)

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