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Trollskogen John Holmvall, Trollskogen (The Troll Forest)

Rabén & Sjögren,  2015.

Reviewed by Charlotte Berry in SBR 2015:2

Review Section: Fiction - Children's, YA and Crossover

This comic book, the first by John Holmvall, an illustrator and author based in the northern Swedish town of Umeå, is one of the latest batch in the genre published by R&S for children.

Drawing heavily on Scandinavia’s rich heritage of myths, legends, sagas and supernatural beings, Holmvall takes the reader through five tales of trolls, fairies and men. This is familiar territory for British and Swedish audiences alike, but Holmvall’s beautifully executed illustrations shed a new light on a fantasy world dominated by forests, mountains and caves. This is a subdued green and grey environment, with clearly formed figures standing out from a muted background.

The five tales take place in the troll forest, where fairies frolic, trolls trick and men muddle their way through the wooded landscape. There are kidnappings, changelings, fortunes sought and happy homecomings.

The first story, ‘Snatched Away’, recounts how a troll father swaps his baby daughter for a human baby girl. Neither thrives in her new home: one teases the cat mercilessly and stays out all night, while the other is too diligent and obedient for the anarchic troll lifestyle.They run away at the same time and both find their way home to their jubilant mothers. The second story, ‘Lia- Maria’, is that of a girl kidnapped by a lonely rich troll while out looking for berries. She is rescued by a troll boy and a fairy, only to be imprisoned by her mother on returning home. Finally, she escapes to seek a permanent refuge among her forest friends.

In the third story, ‘The Travellers’, a fairy befriends a lost boy.They visit a wise man,escape from evil trolls and eventually find the boy’s parents and family caravan as they set off deeper into the forest in search of a new life. In ‘Tilleritora’, trolls find a Sleeping Beauty, a fairy who has flown too close to the sun and needs medicine to be revived. She flies happily home, but the trolls then find themselves falling into a long,enchanted slumber.The final tale,‘TheWandering Boy’, is that of a lad who leaves home to seek his fortune. He meets trolls and the guardian of the forest,but ultimately returns home to his mother’s cinnamon buns.

This book is well suited to its suggested age range of six-nine years, either as a self-read or as a bedtime story for the adventurously-minded child.

Other reviews by Charlotte Berry

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