Guillermo Del Toro (text), Daniel Kraus (text), Sean Murray (illus.), Trollhunters, Hotkey/Allen & Unwin, Dec 2016, 336pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781471405181
Trollhunters centres around Jim Sturges, an American teen who is having a hard time at school, while also trying to manage an overprotective father who is convinced danger lurks in every shadow and under ever bridge. When Jim and his best friend Tub find themselves pulled into an ancient war against an evil troll whose favourite meal is kid-sausage, it suddenly seems his father might have a point.
It came as no surprise that both the authors of this book have a deep background in film. You can’t help but read this book and ‘see’ the film or TV show at the same time. And actually, soon you will be able to see it as DreamWorks have created a new Netflix series based on it.
This is the kind of book that should really appeal to boys aged 10-15 if only for the sheer volume of foul, disgusting, nausea inducing descriptions of bile, pus, excrement and slime. Many times I would suddenly realise that my face had contorted into various forms of disgust or that I was holding the book at arms length, physically recoiling from the detailed descriptions of viscous fluid. So no, this is not a book for the squeamish — it’s kinda like a Percy Jackson book, if he battled pustulated Trolls.
There is a great line up of interesting, imaginative, if often squelchy and repulsive characters, but as is often the case with action books, I found the main protagonist, Jim, a bit bland when compared to his more quirky side-kicks. I didn’t particularly enjoy the occasionally over-descriptive style, which saw me flagging while I waded through details of a Troll Marketplace or a Troll Cave. Though I did enjoy the inclusion of Shakespeare and, through the introduction of a scholarly Troll, a vast array of challenging vocabulary — it’s not many a teen book in which you’ll encounter the words avoirdupois and zaftig. The plot was also engaging and fast paced, particularly from Part Three onward.
Interestingly, one of the book’s major strengths is also sometimes its biggest weakness – humour. At times it’s downright laugh-out-loud, hilarious, then all at once it falls flatter than a Rust Troll. The biggest example of this is the truly cringe-worthy over-use of obscure Scottish slang by a sixteen-year-old girl. It wasn’t pretty and reminded me of a few similar atrocities against Aussie slang by American books. And that’s another thing, this book is as American as they come, or should I say as Hollywood as they come, which is not at all a bad thing, just an observation.
My main problem with the book was that I never had a sense that Jim and his cohorts were ever really in danger and so it sort of felt like inflated drama rather than gripping, end-of-the world, stuff. In the end, Trollhunters is an entertaining read that should be enjoyed by kids drawn to action, adventure, folklore and loads of gross, bodily fluid.
Reviewed by Renee Mihulka