The novel that inspired a popular movie franchise is quite different from its theatrical presentation, as is often the case. In this story, Hiccup is a Viking. Not only that, he is the son of the chief of his tribe, a large and loud man named Stoick the Vast. When the book opens, Hiccup is part of a group of boys aged ten who are about to undergo their ritual passage into manhood. For the Viking tribes, that means stealing and training a baby dragon. Vikings have an antagonistic relationship with dragons. They avoid or fight the grown wild ones, but also capture many when they are still babies to use as pets and servants. All Viking boys are expected to claim their personal dragon when they are ten or face banishment from the tribe. The reader learns that Hiccup fears banishment is his inevitable fate. The novel is told from Hiccup's first person perspective, and he quickly reveals that he has not lived up to his tribe's expectations for him. He is small and scrawny, and not any good at yelling at all. He is nothing like his worthy father. Hiccup is sarcastic, observant, and clever. He faces frightening situations with resigned intention. He stands up for his friends. These traits make him likable to the reader, and unrelatable to his fellow Vikings. Nonetheless, he does manage to trap a dragon, even after giving his first one away to his friend, Fishlegs, who botches the whole adventure. Hiccup's dragon is the smallest, most ordinary dragon anyone has ever seen. Hiccup and Fishlegs manage to convince Hiccup's father that this is because it is one of a rare and most violent species of dragon, but no one else is fooled. They call his dragon Toothless, to rhyme with Hiccup the useless. Despite the negativity, Hiccup trains Toothless, but he uses a method none of the vikings approve: he talks to his dragons in Dragonese. Hiccup has long observed dragons, learned their language, and recognized their intelligence. The other vikings refuse to admit that dragons use a real language; in fact, the chief (Hiccup's father) has made it a law that no one should talk to dragons. Even with all these obstacles, everything seems like it will work out, and at least Hiccup will be able to coax Toothless to perform at the Young Heroes' Final Initiation Test and avoid banishment. When Toothless starts a fight with Snotlout's dragon in the middle of the initiation, it all falls apart. The story is intentionally funny, with ridiculous characters and an original setting. Hiccup is the outsider in his culture, which makes him ironically more accessible to the reader. One reason is that his distance from the Viking way brings him much closer to accepted modern sensibilities. In addition, we love underdog heroes. Moreover, Hiccup acts like a ten year old boy, and this book keeps a young male audience in mind, with plenty of gross humor and slapstick antics. Despite my awareness that this type of story telling is aimed at children, particularly boys, I was still amused. The reading was light, fast-paced, and funny. Within this package, more serious issues are explored, such as Hiccup's disappointment to his father, and with his father, and the superiority of wit and compassion over brute strength and blind reliance on the rules. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, more than I anticipated, and am interested in reading further in the series.