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Troll Fell
Katherine Langrish
HarperCollins, 272 pages

Troll Fell
Katherine Langrish
Troll Fell is Katherine Langrish's first novel.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

When Peer's father died, the last thing the twelve-year-old expected was to have an uncle lay claim to him. Demanding that the boy accompany him to Troll Fell, where he runs a mill, he lets Peer know right away that he's not going to a better life. When he gets there he meets his other uncle. Both men are large, oafish and greedy, as he soon learns when he overhears them dividing up the money they got from selling everything Peer and his father owned, and making dark references to the Gaffer.

Peer does manage to befriend two people. There is Hilde, whose father is going a Viking on the very ship Peer's father died building, and the house Nis, a little gremlin who keeps house (poorly) for the uncles in return for a pot of porridge (tasteless with no butter to make eating it worthwhile). Soon Peer finds out that his uncles plan to sell Peer and Hilde to the troll king in exchange for gold, for a wedding is about to take place, and there is no finer gift than a pair of human children to serve as slaves to the happy couple.

Troll Fell is well written story, capturing many of the nuances and ambiance of old time folk tales, particularly the voice of the homier Norse tales. The trolls are well drawn as almost cat-like creatures, creeping around in shadows and making a real nuisance of themselves, listening at chimney pots and stealing live stock. The Nis, too, is really neat, and plays in well with every adult (or at least adult female's) fantasy of having a house magically cleaned. The quality of the service increases exponentially along with the quality of porridge set out for it. (Porridge? Bah. Come to my house, I'll find you something better than that.) The Nis is (mostly) endearing, but not sweet, acting much the way I would think a creature like this would act.

The uncles are wonderfully vile. Greedy and nasty, but in a sort of offhand way, they aren't always nasty for the joy of it, but rather because to them there is no other way to be. Sometimes, the things they do are out of what they consider to be practicality, but there is still a callous edge to these actions that make them all the more icky. It's a classic take on the wicked guardian convention in folk tales, and makes you feel even worse for Peer than you would already.

Peer is also likable, as is Hilde, and you really empathize with them as they struggle to avoid the evil machinations of the brothers.

This is Ms. Langrish's first book. I believe Troll Fell will please anyone looking for an atmospheric, old time folk adventure.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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