The eighth book in Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon series, How to Break a Dragon’s Heart deals with heartache: betrayal and unrequited romance. I’ve said before that the plots of these books seem to be becoming larger, more epic. This book’s plot gets larger still. A witch locked long in a tree tells Hiccup that he was never destined to be born, that his parents were never meant to marry. But this Hiccup in destiny has created in Hiccup a second possible heir and hero of a prophecy, the other possible hero being Alvin the Treacherous, Hiccup’s ever-returning-from-seemingly-inescapable-peril arch-nemesis and (we learn in this tale) a distant relation of Hiccup’s. Hiccup or Alvin is destined to be King of all of the Archipelago, a role that previous books have promised us that Hiccup will attain.
As much as I appreciate Hiccup’s reflective chapters as endings to each of these books for the emotional punch that Cowell tends to use them to deliver and for the poetry of their prose and sentiments, they do rather detract from the mystery and suspense. I wonder how far Cowell expected to write in Hiccup’s timeline, whether she ever dreamed she’d be allowed to tell this much of the arc, and whether she regrets now the decision to reveal early his destiny.
Could the attainment of his crown or of the peace that his reign will bring according to the older Hiccup be the goal that finally makes this series more of books in a series and less a book series? So far, the series has lacked a continuous problem. In books in a series, the Ring has to get to Mordor and Sauron must be defeated—or Harry has to graduate and Voldemort must be defeated—or even Clary and Jace have to be together. Right now there is no problem that, when solved, we know will mark the end of Cowell’s series. Hiccup’s adventures have been episodic rather than serial. Each completed quest has meant the attainment of some goal, but they have brought Hiccup, cumulatively, no further towards one goal more important than all the others.
Honestly, I’m starting to get a bit tired of Hiccup’s adventures, and I think a goal would go a long way towards providing me with the motivation to finish this series, which is slated to be a full twelve books long. Not because book series are in any way necessary lesser than books in a series. There has not been an episodic book series that I’ve taken to in quite some time. I think I personally prefer to see books in a series with good character growth and a complex plot needing more than one book to be properly told. If How to Train Your Dragon remains episodic, it will not make it lesser writing. I want to make that clear. I write with a clear preference towards the epic. I think for this book series, particularly, though, the waffling on the threshold of epic has become somewhat tiresome. I want soon to know on which side of the door I can firmly stand.
Beyond this plot of Alvin and Hiccup warring over the throne, Furious the dragon has sworn to bring an army of dragons against the humans, destroying them all lest the humans destroy each dragon. Now, eight books in, we get to the war of Dreamworks’ film adaptation (I really believed DreamWorks had invented a war between dragons and Vikings).
I do want to take a moment to praise the page layout for the chapters where POV characters were locked in hollow tree dungeons. That’s a cool use of mixed media.
Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon, Book 8: How to Break a Dragon’s Heart. New York: Little, Brown-Hachette, 2009.
This review is not endorsed by Cressida Cowell, Little, Brown and Company, or Hachette Book Group. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.