How to Speak Dragonese
By Hiccup Horrendous Haddoc III
Translated from the Old Norse by Cressida Cowell)
Published by Hachette Audio
Read by David Tennant
I know these are kids’ books but they are fun to listen to, so back I went for another helping or two of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock’s adventures. Hiccup and his mates are back to learning how to be the best Viking pirates they can be and this time Hiccup even has his own boat… the Hopeful Puffin. The name probably says it all, right?
This time Hiccup’s dragon, Toothless is captured by Romans, fresh out of Rome and seeking to extend their empire. However, before he and his buddy, Fishlegs, can go to the rescue, they too are kidnapped and taken to a Roman outpost with the friendly-sounding name, Fort Sinister (the possibility of left-handed evil jokes here are too easy, so I’ll resist). They find Toothless and meet Camicazi, the heir to the Bog-Burglar Tribe (an all-female tribe of Viking warriors) and possessor of the least likely Viking name since Sven Yamamoto.
I was a bit disappointed by the obvious anachronism of the Romans running around at the same time as the Vikings, especially since Hiccup is supposed to become the last of the great Viking warriors so this is supposedly fairly late in the Viking period. Sure it’s just a children’s book but there is no reason for bad history. They could have been from out of Constantinople (not Istanbul), but no, it was stated they came from Rome and that Rome was the capital of the empire, so the gap between them is at least eight hundred years maybe more. I suppose I ought to be more relaxed about that, but it seems to me Ms. Cowell had a chance to toss in some good history without bogging down the story and instead could not have been bothered. Oh well.
Together they must escape from the Romans, battle Hiccup’s arch-nemesis, Alvin the Treacherous and eventually make their way back home. It’s another fun romp that will delight kids and entertain their parents.
If I have any complaint with David Tennant’s performance, it is once again the choice of accents. I really cannot blame him for using his native Scottish accent for the Vikings. As I said in an earlier review, maybe Berk is one of the Orkney Islands, but I thought he went a bit overboard with the Romans. It was not really his fault as Ms. Cowell chose to make the Romans sound like cheesy imitation Italians. “This-a not-a good, Luigi!” If she was going to portray Romans and their speech, perhaps she should have followed the example of Messiers Goscinny and Uderzo (Asterix the Gaul comics) and used names like Crismus Bonus and Marcus Ginantonicus.
So while it is fair enough to say that the writing required the bad Italian accent, I think Mister Tennant hammed it up just a bit too much. Other than that, however it was an entertaining reading of a fun little book.