An Audio-Book Review: Up, Up and Away!


How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale

By Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (translated from the Old Norse by Cressida Cowell)

Published by Hachette Audio

Read by David Tennant


The Book:

This is the fifth book in the “How to Train Your Dragon” series. Now as I have mentioned in my reviews of the earlier versions, the original series has very little in common with the two movies, save that the characters are all Vikings and some have similar, albeit sometimes longer, names than in the movies. Fans of Astrid need not apply, though, instead there is Kamikaze, a fierce girl Viking from a neighboring tribe and not everyone is friends and the dragons are used for hunting and fishing, not riding… until this book apparently.

Now it appears that there are riding dragons too. They are kept in the previously unseen stable. Of course I may have just missed that detail. I mean dragons you can ride through the sky… It’s a fantasy staple so I suppose it was bound to happen eventually although it does smell heavily of retcon (retroactive continuity). “Riding dragons? Ya sure, we have them. Just didn’t bother to mention it earlier.” Well, that does not really bother me and maybe I did miss an earlier mention of the Vikings’ use of the larger dragons as mounts.

The story itself is cute in the same manner as the earlier stories, though I am becoming tired of Hiccup’s archenemy, Alvin the Treacherous. He is just not an interesting character; just another petty, overgrown bully, really and a perennial loser who somehow manages to survive whatever deadly situation he falls into at the end of the last story. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by telling you he loses again in this story. For one thing the story is supposedly being told by Hiccup himself as an old man, so he has to survive. How he survives and what he accomplishes? Well that’s something else again.

In this story, Hiccup and all the other Vikings learn they are in danger from newly hatched “Exterminator” dragons. They learn it from a famous hero, Humongously Hotshot who is trying to be a retired hero. One chapter is named “Who is the Man On the White Dragon?” As a long-time fan of the Pern books by Anne McCaffrey, I answered “Must be Lord Jaxom of Ruatha,” and I must admit a Pern/HTTYD crossover story might have been fun, but no… In any case it is up to Hiccup- and his friend to find a way to stop a volcano from exploding and thereby save the tribes of Vikings from the Exterminators. A fun story even if the Dragonriders of Pern did not put in an appearance.

The Audiobook:

Once again, David Tennant puts in a lively and spirited performance. He does resort to annoyingly funny voices frequently, however, and his singing does not really enhance the story. I’m not sure, but I think Tennant actually is capable of singing (hard to tell as every clip I found on You Tube had him singing with someone else and sometimes probably just lip-synching), but you cannot tell from the song fragments in this book. His rendition of Toothless’ voice is somewhat annoying too, but perfectly in keeping with the Toothless of the books who really is an annoying little pest of a dragon as opposed to the rather noble creature of the movies.

All told, however, I think he reads appropriately for this book and the characters in it. It is, after all a children’s story and while I do not like funny voices, I think these characters really do have funny voices and reading them straight would likely lose something.

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