Review of How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale – Book 5 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell


The grandchildren have been staying over the Easter holidays, so Oscar and I have managed to get a fair amount of reading done, including this fifth instalment of the successful How To Train Your Dragon series.

The heat is on for Hiccup as he is called to save the day once again. Someone has stolen the Fire-Stone. Now that the volcano on Volcano Island has become active, the tremors are hatching the eggs of the Exterminator dragons! Can Hiccup return the Fire-Stone to the Volcano, stop it from erupting, and save the Tribes from being wiped out by the terrible sword-claws of the Exterminators?

After having thoroughly enjoyed the first four books in this funny, thrilling series, I was interested to see if Cowell could continue to provide yet another rip-roaring adventure full of intriguing twists. Or whether I would begin to see a pattern emerging in the storytelling. Well, there is a pattern – Hiccup and his naughty little dragon, Toothless, once more get dragged into an insanely dangerous and difficult adventure despite his best efforts. Though there is a major difference – the Isle of Berk is sweltering in a heatwave, which is something of a shocker. This part of the world is normally chilly and rain-lashed – failing that, it’s snowing… Hiccup spends most of his time shivering with cold if he isn’t shivering with fear.

However, Stoick the Vast has a cunning plan to keep his accident-prone small son a bit safer – when a real ex-Hero shows up, he employs him as a Bardiguard to look after Hiccup. Although there still seem to be a lot of near misses after Humungous the Hero starts guarding him – which makes his pal Fishlegs very suspicious… Oscar likes Fishlegs, who is small and suffers from eczema and asthma – until you put a sword in his hand and he turns into a Berserk. In this instalment, we also team up once more with Camicazi, the small heir to the Bog-Burglar tribe as the Archipelago is faced with a deadly threat that will leave every island a smoking ruin.

Of course, the one thing we do know is that Hiccup is going to survive and eventually prosper as these tales are his memoirs charting his progress to becoming the eventual leader that unites not just the Hairy Hooligan tribe, but all the Viking tribes. So the fact that both Oscar and I spend quite a lot of time trying to figure out how poor Hiccup is going to get out of this scrape and generally not getting it right is a tribute to Cowell’s considerable skill as a storyteller. What I did particularly enjoy about this tale is the insight it gave us on Hiccup’s mostly absent mother, Valhallarama, who is generally busy off questing on her own account.

The story is resolved after another climactic action scene that had me reading to Oscar later than I strictly should have – but neither of us wanted to stop as we needed to know what happened next. And if you are looking to fire up that kind of enthusiasm about books and stories in your youngsters, I highly recommend this wonderful series.

21 responses »

  1. one of these days I need to get over my allergy to dragons in books! I love them in movies but for some reason not in books. But books like this make me want to try a dragon book so badly!

  2. My daughter adores the first film and show, but every time I pull out the first book she scrunches her face. (shakes angry old biddy fist at movie) Don’t get me wrong–I think the movie has loads going for it, especially that breathtaking score by John Powell. But because the movie did severely alter a few things about the universe, Blondie “couldn’t” follow the book after only a few pages. Gah!

    • The good news is that the books are highly readable up to the age of 10+ – so she may change her mind… And if not, they may well beguile the boys – I believe she initially wrote them to snaffle reluctant boy readers.

      • That’s what I’m hoping. She reads a few grades above her level, but reading is also “work,” so she keeps going for books with more pictures than text. So far the only success we’ve had with good-sized chapter books are about a class pet hamster named Humphrey by Betty Birney. As long as she’s reading, I’m happy. 🙂

      • Oh absolutely! I’m with you – as a teacher I used to emphasise that fun was more important than duty. We don’t read because we have to – we read for fun and relaxation, so why do we insist our children should trudge through books they don’t like? I took the view that I didn’t care what they read, so long as they did – little and often…

  3. I’m always looking for new chapter books for bedtime reading and this series sounds perfect! I love books that have me wanting to know what’s going to happen just as much as the little ones!

    • This one is wonderful – and if you have a library nearby, you can always get hold of the first one and see if it is a hit before rushing out to buy the rest of the series:).

  4. I saw a movie that was really good, and I assume it was based on this series. I enjoyed reading the review, and you must have really enjoyed the book. What age kid does this appeal to? The movie had something for everyone.

    • Yes… I’ve seen the movies, but they are very much a vanilla version of the story which is far funnier and anarchic. It is aimed at 6-12 agegroup, depending on maturity and while my granddaughter loves the stories, it was written for boys in mind. But having said that, this granny absolutely loves them and I have been known to read ahead after Oscar has gone home because I’ve wanted to know what happens next! The series may well be in your local library as they are huge here in the UK.

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