Trollbridge: A fun, quirky read…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsTrollbridge by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple fantasy book reviewsTrollbridge by Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple

Trollbridge is a quirky collaboration between a mother/son team: author Jane Yolen and musician Adam Stemple.

An amalgamation of the fairytales “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” (with a bit of Scandinavian folklore thrown in for good measure), it involves chapters that alternate between driven music protégée Moira Darr and trio of brothers Galen, Jakob and Erik Griffson, a burgeoning boy-band who have managed to wrangle a weekend away from their stage-managing parents. At different points each group arrives at a bridge in the small Minnesotan town of Vanderby: first Moira, who is among the annual Dairy Princesses chosen to have their likenesses carved into butter sculptures (a real Minnesota tradition) and then the Griffson brothers, enjoying the freedom from their overbearing father.

Both have a shock waiting for them at Trollholm Bridge: Moira witnesses the other Dairy Princesses caught up in an immense wave that sweeps them away, and Jakob and his brothers are later snatched by a terrible troll called Aenmarr. With the girls intended as brides for the troll’s sons and the boys intended for the cooking pot, Moira and Jakob must work together to free the captives and escape from the dangerous troll realm. Helping them is the talking fox Fossegrim, who may or may not have an agenda of his own.

Pay the Piper: A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale Paperback – June 27, 2006 by Jane Yolen  (Author), Adam Stemple (Author)

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Trollbridge is an odd little book: almost experimental in nature, it’s entertaining enough, but not hugely memorable. The characters are likeable without having a huge amount of depth, and the story plays out like a familiar fairytale with a few modern twists. Along the way, the chapters are interspersed with original song lyrics and the wry commentary of a couple of radio DJs who speculate on the disappearances. For the record, I found these clueless DJs were by far the most entertaining element of the story!

It was a stroke of genius to set the story in the American Midwest, where the first Swedes and Norwegians settled and where the butter heads of the Dairy Princesses is a real annual tradition (and used as an important plot-point here). With an emphasis on the importance and beauty of music, there are also a few grisly passages involving decapitation and cannibalism. The lyrics to all the songs are collected at the back of the book, though there is some difficulty in appreciating such things without the music to go with them — perhaps Trollbridge would have worked better as an audiobook in which Stemple could contribute his song-writing skills to a listening experience. On paper, it doesn’t really work.

But while it lasts, Trollbridge is a fun, original read, as well as a companion piece to the authors’ other collaborative effort Pay the Piper.

A wicked adventure―or deadly…trollble. For sixteen-year-old harpist prodigy Moira, the annual Dairy Princess event in Vanderby is just another lame publicity “op.” Moira a dairy princess? Get real. Twelve girls have been selected to have their likeness carved in butter and displayed on the Trollholm Bridge. It’s a Vanderby State Fair tradition that has been going on for, like, ever.As far as Moira is concerned, the sooner it’s over with the butter―er―better. About the same time and not far away, three brothers―members of the sensationally popular teen boy band The Griffsons―are in the middle of a much needed road trip to relax from the pressures of their latest tour. In a flash, however, the kids are suddenly transported to a strange and mystical wilderness where they find themselves in the middle of a deadly tug-of-war struggle between a magical fox named Fossegrim and the monstrous troll Aenmarr of Austraegir. At the heart of the feud is a battle for possession of a mysterious magical fiddle–and an ancient compact between Trollholm and the outer world. Whatever. All Moira cares about is that eleven of her fellow princesses have been enchanted into a slumber and Moira needs to figure out a way to awaken them…and get home. Unfortunately for Moira and the Griffsons, nothing in Trollholm is as it seems. Finding a way out of Trollholm may be a lot more difficult than they think.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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2 comments

  1. Almost sounds like it could work as a staged musical or teleplay.

    • An audiobook is a great idea. Stemple himself, or a singer, could sing the songs (audiobook narrators are not necessarily good at that, I’ve found!)

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