I estimate that it’s taken us approximately one year and four months to work our way through Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series of books, and tonight we closed the final chapter in the final book. And what a doorstep of a book it is.
It seemed a fitting ending to a cracking adventure series, that not only packed plenty of suspense, action and plot twists between its pages but evoked every emotion from despair to elation, and from sadness to terror.
We laughed, we cried, and sometimes ducked under the duvet during this thrilling viking saga. However, it is time to say goodbye to Hiccup and his fellow vikings, and with this last book I sensed that Cowell had exhausted every avenue with this story, tying up all loose ends, and saying goodbye finally to the world and people she’d created.
In Hiccup we discovered a hero who was loyal, wise, brave and at times vulnerable. Cowell created a character that you couldn’t fail to cheer on, and throughout the series, and in this book in particular, she certainly placed him in some testing situations. Hiccup tends to find some luck just at the right time but in the last few books, Cowell throws in a few surprises and in spite of giving us a history of Hiccup triumphs she still manages to keep the reader guessing right up until the bitter end.
In the How to Train Your Dragon series I not only discovered a character I’ve taken to my heart but also an author I will add to my “writers I admire list”. Cowell’s prose beautifully lets the reader into the world she’s artfully built. Her language is sophisticated without ever excluding her young readers. It speaks directly to them, building a unique bond between reader and storyteller.
As with all great children’s books it places the children at the heart of the story. Hiccup and his sidekicks Fishlegs and Camicazi are a formidable trio, and are firmly in control. It is their observations, bravery and teamwork that help steer the direction of each story. What child wouldn’t relate and respond to these fantastic characters, who are clever, feisty, sensitive and most important of all – not too perfect.
Although we’re ready to move on from these books, I’m so happy we’ve let these stories into our lives. On the surface they are fun adventure stories but bubbling beneath lies all the big important literary themes of power, destiny and morality. These books deserve classic status and I can’t think of a more appropriate role model for my son than Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third.
Fun factor: 2/5 – it’s fairly dark and serious in places.
Fidget factor: 1/5
Fear factor: 3/5 – lots of tension but less scary than some of the previous books.
Page turnability: 4/5
Mum’s final score: 10/10
Toby’s final score: 9/10