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Reviewed by Barbara Karp for Readers' Favorite
As How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale opens, the entire Viking world is in the grip of a heat wave. Young Hiccup and his fellow Vikings-in-training are about to begin a Herding Reindeer on Dragonback lesson. As the boys mount their riding dragons and work to herd the reindeer, they see a rapidly-growing line of fire racing along the hillside. The Vikings find themselves trapped on the hilltop by the flames, as most of the riding and hunting dragons flee; only Windwalker and Toothless, Hiccup’s dragons, remain. Instructor Gobber orders an evacuation on his dragon, Goliath. After all the other boys have left, Hiccup notices dark shapes moving through the flames and, to his horror, one emerges and kills Goliath. When all seems hopeless, an enormous white dragon appears and its rider attacks the sinister creatures until they run away. With his help, Gobber, Hiccup, and the dragons reach safety.
Stoick the Vast, chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe and Hiccup’s father, shows his gratitude by hiring the rescuer as the boy’s bodyguard. Discovering that he is none other than Humungously Hotshot, a renowned hero, the tribe members are overawed. However, life-threatening “accidents” begin happening to Hiccup—and they seem to involve the newcomer… Hiccup also learns that a Firestone, which has the capability to prevent eruptions, was stolen from a volcano by his father. And if the volcano erupts, hundreds of thousands of deadly Exterminator dragons (like the ones who attacked the Vikings on the burning mountaintop) will hatch from their eggs. To prevent this disaster, the Firestone must be returned.
Cressida Cowell’s relating of Hiccup’s experiences has a darker undercurrent than the previous tales. We feel the ominous aura surrounding the Viking lands. The humor present in the first four stories is more subdued, although the edge-of-your-seat action is sure to keep young readers and listeners riveted. David Tennant’s spot-on narration is a delight. He perfectly captures every character’s personality and makes Hiccup's come alive.