Troll Fell is a decent young adult book whose Norse background gives a more fresh feel to an otherwise relatively mundane plot and set of characters. Younger readers will most likely enjoy it if not be inspired or captured by it; older readers won’t find much to chew on.
The story follows young Peer Ulfsson who upon his father’s death is grabbed up (literally) by a pair of wicked ogrish uncles for their own hidden reasons, the most transparent of which is to use him as free labor at their run-down mill, no longer frequented by the local villagefolk who have grown tired of being cheated by the uncles. Troll Fell is also the story of similarly aged Hilde, whose family, besides having been cheated by the uncles, has a long-running feud with them over a parcel of land under which lies the local troll kingdom (and its gold). Year’s ago, Hilde’s father managed to escape from the underground kingdom with his life and a great golden cup and Peer’s uncles have lusted after both the cup and the untapped gold it represents ever since then. When Hilde’s father leaves the family to go off Viking, the uncles’ plots begin to accelerate and they leave no doubt that both Peer and Hilde will rue the day those plots come to fruition.
The story moves along pretty quickly if not with a lot of spark. Scenes and characters are solidly portrayed if not particularly original or inspired. The uncles are the “starve the lad and don’t spare the rod” sort of evil stepparents one would expect. Hilde and Peer are the grit-your-teeth and forge ahead despite your fears young folks we’ve seen before.
What adds a bit more flavor to the book are its less-often seen Norse-derived creatures. Rather than the usual elves and horsefolk etc., we have trolls and the Niss (a household spirit) and Granny Greenteeth (a shapechanging underwater spirit), among others. The trolls are a bit flat but Granny and the Nis are both well-done and the whole Norse atmosphere gives the story a more unique feel to it. The other nice touch is the relationship between the two young characters and their dogs; scenes between them, in fact, might be the most emotional and best written of the whole story.
While some young adult literature is rich enough for older teen and adult enjoyment, I think Troll Fell falls a bit short of that. Younger readers will find some suspense, older ones I suspect will see things coming and perhaps even get frustrated that Peer and Hilde do not. And neither the character development nor the plot are really rich enough or compelling enough for older experience.
In the end, it’s a well-tapped story which seems a bit less tired due to its setting. A pleasant read for younger readers if not much beyond that.
Troll — (2004-2006) Ages 9-12. Publisher: A secret kingdom of trolls, and their legendary gold, lies in the mysterious shadows of Troll Fell. It is to this eerie and dangerous place that Peer must go after his father’s sudden death, to live with his greedy uncles, Baldur and Grim, at their mill. When Peer discovers his uncles’ plan to sell children to the trolls, he has to bury his fears and set out to stop them somehow. In a world filled with magic and mystery, Peer has only his bravery, his wits, and two new allies — a daring girl looking for adventure and a mischievous house spirit looking for a good meal. Their story will become part of the legends and lore that fill this extraordinary land by the sea.