I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Trollhunters by Daniel Kraus, Guillermo del Toro
Illustrator: Sean Murray
Series: Trollhunters #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on July 7th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
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Also by this author: The Strain, The Night Eternal
"You are food. Those muscles you flex to walk, lift, and talk? They're patties of meat topped with chewy tendon. That skin you've paid so much attention to in mirrors? It's delicious to the right tongues, a casserole of succulent tissue. And those bones that give you the strength to make your way in the world? They rattle between teeth as the marrow is sucked down slobbering throats. These facts are unpleasant but useful. There are things out there, you see, that don't cower in holes to be captured by us and cooked over our fires. These things have their own ways of trapping their kills, their own fires, their own appetites."
Jim Sturges is your typical teen in suburban San Bernardino—one with an embarrassingly overprotective dad, a best friend named "Tubby" who shares his hatred of all things torturous (like gym class), and a crush on a girl who doesn't know he exists. But everything changes for Jim when a 45-year old mystery resurfaces, threatening the lives of everyone in his seemingly sleepy town. Soon Jim has to team up with a band of unlikely (and some un-human) heroes to battle the monsters he never knew existed.
From the minds of Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus comes a new illustrated novel about the fears that move in unseen places.
“It’s a terrible thing, isn’t it? To be dragged under?”
In San Bernadino in the late 1960s, almost 200 hundred children went missing in what became known as The Milk Carton Epidemic. Children weren’t allowed on the streets past sunset, but on the day of Jack Sturges birthday, he and his little brother Jim were having too much fun on their bicycles to notice the sun was slowly making its exit. When Jack raced ahead towards the Holland Transit Bridge, Jim quickly lost sight of him. From the shadow of the bridge came a sight so terrifying that Jim could only run away in fear. Black fur, horns, claws, and massive teeth chased him home that day and while he managed to survive, he never saw his older brother Jack again.
Years later, Jim’s son, Jim Sturges Jr. is fifteen years old and lives alone with his paranoid father. Ever since he lost his older brother, his father has been terrified of the dark. Steel shutters cover their windows, ten locks secure their front door, and the flood lights and security cameras pick up anything that lurks outside. Jim never quite understands his father’s paranoia, that is until the day that he’s dragged through a hole beneath his bed and sees his first troll. And his lost Uncle Jack who is somehow just as young as he was the day he went missing. He’s told that the Sturges family belongs to a line of trollhunters, that the battle between humans and trolls has been going on for ages, and that he’s the next in line to step up to the task. Jim’s life is never quite the same again.
“This is the only thing I’m good at. There are times when you have to do the right thing, no matter how scary. […] If I don’t fight now, right now, when am I supposed to fight?”
Trollhunters will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson, The Blackwell Pages, The Kane Chronicles, and the multitude of series’ that center around kids/teenagers burdened with the task of saving the world. Trollhunters is tagged as YA but the goofiness that is typically present in Middle-Grade fiction is flying high in this one. But there are also several instances of profanity (asshole and bastard are two I remember off the top of my head) so it’s clear this author-duo was possibly trying to entice an audience of various ages. I’m just not sure the way they went about it is necessarily a recipe for success. The fact that it’s marketed as horror doesn’t necessarily help either, especially since it’s really not. Children stolen from their beds at night (by monsters nonetheless) should be straight nightmare fuel but it never quite reached the level of terror I would have expected since the intensity was constantly lessened by the presence of goofy humor.
I’m a huge fan of del Toro, so this became an immediate addition to my TBR, but what most intrigued me about this one is the difference in the fantasy focus: trolls. I’ve read plenty of vampire, werewolf, and faerie stories but a troll story? Can’t recall a single one. But these aren’t the trolls of my generation either.
Oh, no. These trolls are nasty, ugly things that like to snack on humans like they were tasty kernels of popcorn. While the horror was somewhat lacking (except for that bit about the troll fetus that takes up residence inside humans for the night? oh. my. god. Wire my mouth shut, I’ll just breathe through my nose, thank you very much), the gruesomeness is actually pretty intense. For a glimpse of what these disgusting trolls actually look like, check out some of the artwork by Sean A. Murray. One thing I have to note about the artwork, and due to the fact that I read an ARC I can’t be certain this is necessarily the case in the finished copy, but the artwork never coincided with what was occurring in the story. A certain scenes artwork would be shown 20 pages later which kind of threw you off from the scene that was currently happening.
Naturally, this is a start to a new series since various questions were left unanswered. I hope that some thought is put into future installments because at this point I can’t see how they can be anything but repetitive. Trolls try to take over, battles happen, people die, good wins. The story often dragged at times and lacked any twists that would have helped keep me (or any reader) engaged. Less goofiness, more horror, and much more excitement are all I’d like to ask for in the next installment. Still worth the read, but not nearly as thrilling as I had hoped for from an author duo like this.