Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus and Sean Murray
|Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus and Sean Murray|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A joyous find for any age range after a discerning little piece of comedy horror, as a war between trolls and a reluctant teenaged hero is played out in most unusual manner.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: July 2015|
|Publisher: Hot Key Books|
|External links: Author's website|
West Coast USA in the 1960s, and the city is wracked and wrecked by a slew of missing children reports. The parents with their new anguishes, and new rules against playing out after dark, have no idea of the horrors in their vicinity – literally under their feet lies a city of trolls, guilty of snatching the children. Last to go, Jack Sturgess. Cue the modern era and Jack's younger, now grown-up brother Jim, and Jim Jr live a sheltered life in the most barricaded and secure home imaginable, and Jim Jr's life is as exciting as you'd expect. Unfortunately, however, the trolls are about to make a return to their nastiest of ways – and their intentions are a lot more surprising than Jim Jr could ever predict…
We of course know Guillermo del Toro's name from the world of cinema, and it has to be said about this book that it's incredibly cinematic. You don't have to work hard at all to see the whole drama played out in front of your mind's eye, and the results are an effects-laden, comedy horror adventure for the under-thirteens. Del Toro's usual suspects of elements are there – the troll city far surpasses the one his budget allowed him in Hellboy II, there are antique, clockwork-styled implements, and more. But you do get the feel that this is suitably put on the page and not on screen, for the very fact that the form allows him to do a lot more – I think the first subterranean encounter with piles of childhood and neighbourhood detritus can be honestly read as interesting detail, but to my mature eye I saw something else – the stacks of sorted items became an underground Auschwitz museum, a Holocaust of half-inched innocence.
That is, however, before one knows the truth of the story, and one further brilliant thing about the book is that that truth is very nicely convoluted. It takes a long time coming to tell us and Jim what is what and to give us all its reveals; I lost count of the number of callbacks to things mentioned in a throwaway style many chapters before, only to make me smile when they cleverly reappeared at the crux moment of importance. Both creators clearly have put a lot of thought into this – you could never accuse this of being a throwaway article, a cheap time-filler with a celebrity name tagged to it.
So to return to my categorisation of the film, given above. It's a comedy because – certainly for the first third, if not more – there is a fine sense of humour, which all seems to work, and comes across well. It's an adventure because it certainly provides a right rollicking ride for Jim Jr and a lot of other characters, about which you really should learn elsewhere, preferably on these very pages. And it's a horror for the middle-grade readers, because it does have lashings of gore – monsters are forever losing bits (sometimes even voluntarily) or dripping some kind of fluid very closely to other characters, there is body horror here, there and everywhere, and that visual style I referred to is giving it to us all with a lot of clarity. I don't think it nearly deserves the reader's warning regarding language on the copy I have, but I can perhaps see it causing a few nightmares.
However the book gets an escape clause there, through dint of being so damnably readable – if a junior starts this early in the day she will have passed through a lot of underground gore and guts and come out the end smiling most broadly, with no hint of nightmare. There is a heinous misuse of Scottish accent for comedy effect, but very little in the way of flaws, in this inherently enjoyable horror romp – even the horrific plot-hole that is the museum's work might be justified by the end. Sequel or not to come, del Toro has provided us with one of the absolute best slices of his fantastic mind's work, in a kid's book of all things. A kid's book this adult thoroughly recommends.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
One For Sorrow by Philip Caveney might be a very different beast, but we think the young spooks it offers are well worth investigating. For more from Kraus, we can recommend Blood Sugar by Daniel Kraus.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus and Sean Murray at Amazon.com.
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