Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Katherine Langrish

Troll Fell
by Katherine Langrish
Recommended Age: 12+

If you thought the Dursleys were bad foster parents, wait until you meet the twin uncles of Peer Ulfsson. Scarcely waiting until after his father’s funeral, Uncle Baldur and Uncle Grim sell off Peer’s possessions, appropriate his chickens, and set him to a life of slave labor on very short rations. And that’s not even the worst of it. For the greedy Grimssons have their heart set on the buried treasure of a nearby colony of trolls – and to get it, they need to hand over a boy and a girl as gifts at a royal troll wedding.

Of course, Peer suspects that his uncles intend for him to be the boy slave, and the daughter of a neighboring farmer to be the girl slave. But as the date of the troll wedding – Midwinter – draws nearer, Peer’s hopes and plans to foil his uncles' plan go awry. What can he do, when he is threatened by two giant uncles who beat him, starve him, and work him half to death, as well as their enormous, vicious dog? What can he do, when the farmer he has counted on to help him has gotten lost at sea, presumed drowned? What, indeed, when his allies include a mercurial house-spirit, a millpond monster that lures people to a watery grave, and a little dog nearly as starved as himself?

When it finally seems that Peer can do nothing but run for his life, he is faced by terrifying choices. Will he turn out to be better than his dreadful uncles? Or will his fear, anger, and despair bring him down to their level? And for his final choice: will he abandon himself to his worst fear in order to save others?

Troll Fell is creepy, suspenseful, rollicking good fun. Set somewhere in Scandinavia during the age of the Vikings, it has a unique concept of trolls backed up by a writing style that transports you effortlessly to that amazing time and place. It is its author’s first novel; may it be the first of many!

Troll Mill
by Katherine Langrish
Recommended Age: 12+

If you thought the troubles of Peer Ulfsson were over, think again. Even after the events of Troll Fell he is not free of the threat of the trolls, the fear of his monstrous miller uncles, or the insecurity of not really belonging to the kindly farm family that has taken him in. Anxious about his future, miserable in love, Peer has enough things on his mind before he collides with Kersten, wife of Peer's fisherman friend Bjorn. Kersten thrusts her weeks-old infant into Peer's arms and runs headlong into the sea.

Peer isn't the only one stunned. Bjorn is shattered by the disappearance of his wife, and refuses to accept that she has drowned. His grief isn't helped by rumors that Kersten was a seal woman, captured and held captive by Bjorn until she recovered her sealskin coat and returned to the sea. But Peer, his friend Hilde, and his family grow increasingly concerned as more and more clues hint that this seal-woman story is true.

But Hilde's folks have other problems to deal with: the malice of Granny Greenteeth, the spirit of the mill pond... the rebellion of the friendly Nis who helps out around the house... the sneaking and scheming of two lubbers... the mystery of Peer's uncles' abandoned mill working by itself at night, even while Peer spends his days preparing to take it over... the gruesome preparations for a troll prince's christening... sightings of ghostly ships and death omens on the sea... and finally, a complex and thrilling climax in which a Nordic farm family matches wits and courage with several dangerous, magical enemies at once.

Langrish has followed through on her success in Troll Fell with an equally exciting and spooky sequel, filled to equal measure with the spirits of Nordic folklore and the growing pains of an adolescent boy. I was happy to learn that this is a trilogy, and the third book - Troll Blood - is already in print.

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