Every now and then, I like reading a good YA novel. There’s really nothing wrong with them, they can be just as engrossing and entertaining as an adult novel, just aimed at a younger audience. Seeing how much I enjoyed the last series of Guillermo del Toro books I read, I figured this new one ought to be fun as well and it didn’t disappoint.
If you love movies like Goonies, this is going to make you smile because it hits all the same beats. Kids out killing trolls and saving humanity? What could be better? So let’s look at Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus’s Trollhunters.
Back in 1969, kids are disappearing in San Bernardino, California. Young Jack and James Sturges accidentally discover the horrifying truth about the disappearances, but at the seeming cost of Jack’s life. Today, James lives in fear, with his 15 year old son Jim, terrified that the same evil that took his brother away will return, but little does he know that his family has a secret, they are legendary troll hunters and soon, Jim Jr. will have to join forces with a not-so-dead uncle to take on the king of the evil trolls who wants to take over the world and consume everyone.
It was actually kind of cool that this book takes place in a place that’s a hop, skip and a jump from my house. That’s probably the thing that really pushed me over the edge to read the book. However, there are a lot of elements in the book that are clearly just made up and I figure that if you’re going to use a real place, at least use real landmarks. It’s a minor quibble, but a quibble to be sure.
One thing this book isn’t is complex. I called almost all of the major plot elements right away. The kid in armor that we meet in the first couple of chapters? I knew it was Jack the first time I saw him. That Jim’s erstwhile girlfriend Claire would be a trollhunter? I had that one down about half way through. That the final battle would happen at the big game? Clearly obvious early on. Maybe I’ve just read enough of these books to pick out all of the tropes, but there was nothing that was particularly surprising, but then again, there didn’t have to be. It worked as it was without having to have shocking twists.
Another issue, again, looking at this from an adult perspective, is that the characters are not especially well fleshed out. Yes, it takes place over a relatively short time period, just a week, but most of the characters are just stereotypes. Perhaps this is most clear when you look at Claire, whose only real defining characteristic is that she’s Scottish. Jim and Tub are a little better but not much, you get the loner kid and the fat kid and that’s about it. I understand that there isn’t a lot of time to really fill in details, but that lack of details is really felt.
Now before you go handing this book over to your kids, there is something that you need to know. It is graphic. Very graphic. These are not cartoon trolls and the kills are not clean. They are detailed and disgusting and the violence is described in depth. Most teenagers can probably handle it, but giving it to an 8-year old, probably not such a good idea. Also, since you have trolls eating cats, it might bother animal lovers too.
This really is a fun book, I devoured it in just a couple of hours and if they did a sequel, although I can’t see how they could, I’d be all over it. There was a rumor a while back that Guillermo del Toro wanted to make a movie based on this idea, before it was made into a book, but who knows if that will ever happen. If it does, I’ll absolutely watch it. If there was ever a book that came so close to scoring a 5 and made me wish I gave fractional scores, this is it. Give it a read.