Book Review: “How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale” by Cressida Cowell

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How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale
by Cressida Cowell

Book 5 of How to Train Your Dragon sends undersized Viking hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III on his most perilous quest yet when all life in the Barbarian Archipelago is at risk. A volcano is about to erupt, hatching the eggs of a rogue breed of dragon that kills and destroys senselessly. Old Wrinkly, Hiccup’s soothsayer grandfather, has taken a vow of silence and gone to live at the bottom of a well until everything sorts itself out. It turns out that, in his younger days, the elder Viking set a train of events in motion that could cost the Hairy Hooligans dearly, and all their neighboring tribes too.

Twined up in Hiccup’s present quest is a tragic tale of heroic heartbreak. A legendary hero has returned, having been captured and enslaved for fifteen years and presumed dead by all who knew and loved him. Humungous Hotshot is good at almost everything, but somehow after he gets hired as Hiccup’s Bardiguard (that’s bodyguard to a clan chief’s son), the lad’s life is in more danger than ever. Lurking in the background is a villain Hiccup can’t seem to shake off his trail, a slumbering volcano about to awake, more than one stone of unguessed-at significance, and a wistful irony that binds two enemies together for life.

This is the installment of Hiccup’s memoirs where we see Old Norse democracy in action–and by “action” I mean something suspiciously similar to American football. We see the unlikeliest of heroes pull off some all-but-unbelievable acts of survival, including one stunt so jaw-droppingly cool that it positively hurts not to spoil it for you. It’s a rip-snortingly fun adventure for pre-teen readers, serving up a heady mixture of swashbuckling action, irreverent humor, heartwarming romance, and whimsical illustrations, in the midst of which you accept without question this strange world in which dragons and Viking pirates live in harmony. The only drawback is that you’ll finish it so quickly that you won’t be able to wait for Book 6!