Pan Macmillan Australia, RRP $24.99
A few years ago I travelled very briefly through Scandinavia. In Norway, I embarked on a train journey through mountainous forest and snowy terrain to get to the town of Voss, nestled at the head of a fjord like a punctus at the end of an exclamation point. The town is horseshoed in by steep hillsides and the fjord itself is bordered by sheer cliffs of mottled grey stone—as fjords generally are.
It was here that I realised trolls were real. And if they were real, then in all probability—as I’d long suspected—so too were elves and other fairy creatures.
Look, I know what this sounds like. I know, I do, and I sympathise. The thing is you’re wrong. Trolls are real. I walked through misty drizzle when it was far too late at night for it to still be light. I stared long and hard at rocky outcrops and into darkened copses and I swear to you now, as I live and breathe so too do trolls. They live there amid the rocks and scrub. They live there and they are real. By the way, I have a degree in science. Right, let’s move on.
Matthew Reilly, bam-crash-thwack-boom author of Ice Station, Contest and The Tournament to name a select few*, returns with a single collected edition of his novella, Troll Mountain. The novella was released as a three part e-book serial in 2014, and was inspired by the mischievous and dramatic In the Hall of The Mountain King from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite.†
Troll Mountain is the story of Raf and his quest to save his sister and his tribe from the illness that is killing them one by one. But, uh-oh, the only cure is an elixir greedily kept by the brutish trolls who live on Troll Mountain. From their bastion in the sky they have control of not only the cure for the sickness ravaging the lands below but also the flow of the river, which they have dammed and kept for themselves. Horrid beasts! But are all trolls like that?
Raf’s own society is ruled by a warrior class of the ‘me no like smarty-smarts, me like bashy-bash’ school of philosophy. Small framed Raf, with his innovative ideas and initiative, is unappreciated and mocked by the powerful leaders of his tribe. As a scientist (of sorts) in the current climate, I can relate.‡ When a team of warriors fails to return from its mission to collect the elixir from the trolls, Raf sets off on his own.
Along the way, Raf meets people who challenge the prejudices he and his tribe have believed all their lives. With the help of his new-found friends, Raf infiltrates Troll Mountain to find the elixir. As it very well should in this traditional hero’s journey, Raf’s quest for the elixir leads him to discover within himself the valuable traits of confidence, trust and wisdom.
Troll Mountain deals with themes of xenophobia, technophobia and the ways in which certain social structures can be detrimental. Cleanly written and offering many life lessons pertinent to our own society, it is an adventure story for younger readers that can be used to discuss these issues curled up on a comfy couch with a cup of cocoa.
*That I chose at random and not because they happen to be my favourites.
†Many thanks to the interview at the end of the book. Incidentally, do listen to the Peer Gynt Suite if you’ve never done so. It is especially lovely to listen to on a cold and dismal day—or that may just be me.
‡The media do love to give grossly disproportionate representation to myopic climate change deniers, nutritionally illiterate fools and anti-vaccine… I have no word strong enough for what I think of that last group. I shall stop here before I begin a vehement diatribe.