Four “How To Train Your Dragon” books, by Cressida Cowell

I asked young F the other day if I might borrow his Cressida Cowell collection. He went and rummaged in his shelves, and came back with three books, apologising that the fourth in the series was missing. "Are these the first three, then?" I asked. "No," he replied, "these are the first, fifth and tenth!" I had no idea that there were so many, but at least I can now say that I have given them a fair sampling. He also later found the fourth book as well.

The series concerns the adventures of a teenage Viking and his faithful but rather useless dragon; although he is the chief's son, he is the weedy boy of his cohort in the tribe, and must find success through superior brain-power, linguistic knowledge and as it turns out predestination as well. The Viking culture depicted will ring rather few bells with readers who know anything about the era. The tribe appears to have no girls (in later books a girl called Camicazi from a neighbouring tribe appears). No other culture apart from the Vikings and the dangerous multicoloured (and occasionally enslaved) dragons is shown, though the Romans are off-screen. The names are rather excruciating (our hero is Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, his father is Stoick the Vast, and his mother is Valhallarama) and the dragon language a bit embarrassing; the stories are exciting but not terribly edgy. I rather preferred the film.

Book 1: How To Train Your Dragon

As Hiccup somersaulted for the second time he thought to himself, Now THIS, this really IS the worst moment of my life.

The origin story, where Hiccup bonds with a rather useless dragon called Toothless and then must help his tribe deal with a giant dragon which turns up and threatens to eat them all.

Book 4: How To Cheat A Dragon's Curse

On the west of the map, someone had scribbled out the great tumbling waterfall which on most Viking maps was marked 'End of the World', and replace it with a crude charcoal drawing of an island it called AMERICA.

I liked this the most of the four; to save his friend, Hiccupmust retrieve a mysterious vegetable called a potato from a vicious neighbouring tribe who have found it in a new land to the west. The is a lot of humour about how America and the potato are actually taboo topics among the Vikings who ought not to have discovered them yet, and Camicazi is a welcome foil to Hiccup.

Book 5: How To Twist A Dragon's Tale

I have found another Lover, who has already brought me the Fire-Stone, and I am going to marry HIM.

Hiccup encounters a legendary hero who turns out to be his mother's ex-boyfriend, and together they must prevent a volcano from erupting.

Book 10: How To Seize A Dragon's Jewel

The truth is, it is often difficult to explain things to a parent. And most definitely it s particularly difficult when your mother is hunting you at top speed through a dark forest under the impression tat you are the Enemy of the Wilderwest.

This seems to be the middle book of a climactic sequence in which villains from previous volumes have come together and enslaved Hiccup's village, while plotting magical domination of the known world (or at least the Viking archipelago). It's 400 pages, whereas the other three are in the low to mid 200s. The is a fairly spectacular set of scenes around a geographically improbable desert, and Hiccup must deal separately with mummy and daddy issues. I did not feel the urge to seek out any more in the series to see how it ends.

I'd hesitate to recommend these, to be honest. Maybe I am too pedantic, but I prefer my fictional Vikings to be a bit more like real Vikings, and while of course one must lose some verisimilitude once pet dragons have been brought into the picture, I think it's not unfair to expect a little better than this.

One thought on “Four “How To Train Your Dragon” books, by Cressida Cowell

  1. I think the point he was making there was that the craft of making television has got better over the years independent of the quality of the content.

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