Before I even opened the art book, I was entranced by the cover. I like to play at being an artist (as anyone who has seen my work can attest to), and the bold colors of the cover took me back to the dragon-based fantasies of my childhood--Anne McCaffrey's work in specific. I was reminded of a hero facing immense odds, and Hiccup's very position on the cover, how he holds himself, and the cluster of Vikings in the lower right corner, ooze the sensation of something more sinister and powerful at hand. The fact that Toothless is flying alone in the sky made me wonder, "Is this reflective of Drogo taking him in the movie? Or does this allude to something else, something that will develop later in the trilogy? Maybe their ability to stand without one another, to be free of that dependence on each other?"
After opening the book, I noticed something else that almost brought me tears. Now, keep in mind I received this lovely gift after seeing the movie, so I think the impact the first image had on me was resonant of the film more than anything. Stoick was sitting on Skullcrusher in a rather stylized Viking-esque image, arms in the air, and Skullcrusher is grinning. It's less of a nod in Stoick's honor, and more a giant bow to his character, and to his fans. I was so overwhelmed by this gesture by the layout designer at Harper, that I instantly showed my boyfriend, who, like me, was still broken up over Stoick's death. He, too, was moved, and I feel that Harper's choice of placing this "tapestry" of Stoick doing something he loved--riding his beloved dragon and friend--couldn't have been better positioned. Thank you, whoever you are, because I think fans of the film and Stoick will greatly appreciate it.
Now, forgive me, but this Foreword actually made me think it was written before the second film's script was completed, and during a time when Mr. Butler thought his character would live longer than he did. It's probably the only part of the book that jarred me a little, which is fine, but I was half-hoping he would discuss his feelings about Stoick's death, at least a little. He did a great job, and again, hat's off to the Harper team for their great editing of the piece. It flows well, and I love how Mr. Butler discusses accents and language--trust me, this made up for any lack of Stoick-death-discussion...I am a fan of language and how it sounds, appears, and works--in relation to his role as a Viking chief. He made some great points about historical accuracy, as well as the artistic choice made by the actors, directors, and writers (that being the "more modern" children using an American accent to contrast the Scottish accents of the older--and more conservative--characters).
"Too often, sequels feel recycled, disconnected, or unnecessary, but here was a chance to tell a story that would evolve as organically as its hero did, charting Hiccup's coming of age while expanding upon story threads that were set up in the first film, and planting seeds that would flourish in its third and final chapter" (10).