Book Review: The Sea of Trolls

With a title like "The Sea of Trolls" and vaguely Viking-like ship painted on the cover, you expect at least a Norse feel to the story. Nancy Farmer does do that, to some degree, but also does a lot of other stuff. The northern parts of the story are mostly acceptable, but they show a very narrow and stereotypical view of those Vikings.

The book is the first in a group of three. The second is "The Land of the Silver Apples" and the third is "The Islands of the Blessed". The first stands on its own, and the three tell a complete story. The tales in the last two are complete in themselves, but they mention activities from the first so the reader would benefit from starting at the beginning.

The tales start in Saxon England and follow the adventures of a boy who gets to explore all that the northern world has to offer. That's where the Vikings come in. Throughout, the story encounters the different cultures one was likely to encounter at the time. In addition to the Christian monks attempting to convert the English, there are Picts, Celts, and remnants of old Saxon practices.

It is obvious that the author did plenty of research; there's even a bibliography at the end of each book. She takes the approach that each character would interpret events according to their own beliefs and culture. For those of you who have seen the movie "Eric the Viking", it is much like when the Vikings are fighting the dragon, which they believe is real, and the monk with them who cannot see it because he doesn't believe in such things. Her take is not quite that extreme.

The good part of all of this is that it does introduce aspects of our religion to the reading public. That is always a good thing. The sad part is that she only shows a small band of Viking stereotypes who think of nothing more than killing to die in battle. Though she mentions that there are others who have different but related beliefs, they are not shown in the books. We get enough bad press on the mindless violence end as it is. It would be nice if we could be shown in better light.

Despite all of that, the books are an entertaining read. I would definitely recommend giving them a try.