Reviews for Sea of Trolls
Booklist Reviews 2004 November #1
Gr. 6-9. In Farmer's latest, a battle-ax-size fantasy-adventure, rampaging Northmen (the polite term for Vikings) pass through a Saxon village and enslave two of its residents: an 11-year-old apprentice mage and his 5-year-old sister. When Jack offends the Northmen's touchy queen, she threatens to kill his sister unless he reverses a misfired spell--a task that requires a journey deep into icy troll country. The subsequent bouts with troll-bears, giant spiders, and dragons are thrilling, and boys in particular will delight in Farmer's portrayal of the initially terrifying Northmen as tellers of fart jokes and singers of rowdy songs. Lighthearted moments notwithstanding, Jack's archetypal quest is a dense one, heavily draped in Norse mythology, Old English lore, and ponderings about the differences between Christian and pagan cosmologies. In addition, many readers may find it difficult to accept Jack's deepening affection for his frequently barbaric kidnappers, not to mention the oft-repeated message, "All beautiful things attract destruction"--a worldview that comes to Jack straight from the bloody saga of Beowulf. Readers captivated by slash-'em-up Viking culture will happily plunge into this celebrated author's sixth novel, but many members of Farmer's traditional audience will emerge from the experience feeling alternately dazzled and dazed. ((Reviewed November 1, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Spring
Drawing upon history, Norse and Celtic myth, and Farmer's own abundant imagination, this story is long but engrossing, a "cruel tale with a merry heart" about a Saxon boy and what befell him upon his and his younger sister's capture by marauding Northmen (and, later, trolls). The book is effectively sparing in its use of fantasy elements, but when Farmer pulls out all the stops, she does so with aplomb and assurance. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2004 #6
Farmer moves far north of her favored hot-weather climes for her latest hero-tale, which takes place along the various coasts of the North Sea in the late eighth century. Drawing upon history, Norse and Celtic myth, and Farmer's own abundant imagination, the story is long but engrossing, a "cruel tale with a merry heart" about a Saxon boy named Jack and what befell him upon his and his younger sister's capture by marauding Northmen (and, later, trolls). Readers will spot themes and motifs familiar from Farmer's previous novels, including seriocomic helper figures, a ferociously loyal sibling pair, and a most adroit fusion of the natural and supernatural worlds. The book is effectively sparing in its use of fantasy elements, but when Farmer pulls out all the stops -- such as Jack's encounter with the three Norns -- she does so with aplomb and assurance. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2004 #2
He left as an apprentice and returned a full-fledged bard, complete with a fire-wizard's staff in hand and a crow perched on his shoulder. Between being kidnapped by Norse berserkers and returning home, Saxon Jack has met Norse Jill, saved sister Lucy from a shape-shifting troll queen, faced a troll-bear, dragons, and giant spiders, and drunk from a magic well. This tale of a Saxon Bilbo Baggins, set in c.e. 793, at the advent of 200 years of Viking raids on the British Isles, weaves a colorful tapestry of bards and raiders, evil queens and plucky heroes, quests and home. Jack is a friendly companion in this exciting story of sacrifices made, lessons learned, and friends lost and found, all told with grace and humor. Allusions to Beowulf, the destruction of the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, and the Norse legend of Jack and Jill offer a rich backdrop for a hugely entertaining story sure to appeal to fans of The Lord of the Rings. (appendix, sources) (Fiction. 10-13) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 July #3
Readers will want to sail through these nearly 500 pages to find out what happens to young Jack and his sister, Lucy, kidnapped from their homeland by a Viking crew led by Olaf One-Brow. The two then travel across the sea where Ivar the Boneless, king of the Northmen, reigns with his half-troll wife, Queen Frith. The Bard, who fled from Queen Frith and has taken refuge on the boy's small island ("Nowhere in the nine worlds is safe for me as long as she is abroad," the Bard explains) takes in 12-year-old Jack as an apprentice. The old man manages to teach Jack some magic and some of the complex history of the Northmen and their enemies, the Jotuns or trolls, before Olaf and his men invade. The book brims with delectable details. Ivar the Boneless, for instance, "wears a cloak made from the beards of his defeated enemies" and Queen Frith's beauty dissolves when Jack begins to sing a tribute to her ("Her features rippled and twisted like the beasts carved on the walls"). Her rage at reverting back to her troll-like appearance prompts Jack's quest to seek Mimir's Well, in the heart of Jotunheim (troll country) in order to reverse the spell and save his sister, whom Queen Frith threatens to sacrifice if her beauty is not restored. Plotting and incidental players such as dragons and giant spiders in Jotunheim take precedence over character development here. But if the relationships are not as fully fleshed out as in Farmer's previous books, fans of Viking and adventure tales will still be up late nights to discover Jack's fate. Ages 10-13. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2004 October
Gr 5-9-Farmer draws upon Scandinavian mythology and medieval history to create an engaging tale. Jack, a bard's apprentice, and his little sister begin a series of harrowing adventures when they are kidnapped from their peaceful Saxon island by Viking "berserkers." Saved from death by his knowledge of magic and poem making, Jack gradually earns the respect, and even the friendship, of his captors. Olaf One-Brow is an especially magnetic character, despite his love of bloodshed, while a prideful young female warrior who initially detests the boy also becomes an ally. The fast-paced tale seeps deeper into magic as Jack must undertake a quest to the far north to drink "song-mead" from Mimir's Well, increase his powers, and ultimately save his sister's life. He faces dragons, trolls, and the mysterious Norns, surviving by a combination of craftiness and luck. Throughout, he ponders the nature of the people and creatures he encounters, even learning to admire the courage and vitality of the berserkers, while remaining appalled by their thirst for blood and a heroic death. Jack's growing maturity and wisdom develop naturally within the novel's flow. Geographical and mythological elements are revealed through conversations, rather than narrative description. Despite the legendary tone of some of the events, there are plenty of lighthearted moments, and the characters never seem stiff or contrived. This exciting and original fantasy will capture the hearts and imaginations of readers.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2004 October
Eleven-year-old Jack is peacefully learning to understand and control the "life force" as apprentice to the Bard in their Saxon community in 793 AD. Then the Bard is attacked by a Nightmare, and Viking berserkers kidnap Jack and his little sister, Lucy. Jack manages to save them from being sold into slavery by revealing his training as a bard, or as the Northmen would say, skald. Olaf One-Brow decides to keep Jack for his own, but Lucy, the thrall of shield maiden Thorgil, is meant as a gift to the half-troll Queen Frith-the same queen who attacked the Bard. But when Jack's magic accidentally offends the queen, he, Olaf, and Thorgil set off on a quest to Mimir's Well in Jotenheim (troll country) to get the remedy. There Jack fights troll-bears, dragons, and visits the Troll Queen before drinking from the well, saving Lucy, and ultimately, returning to his Saxon home Lighter in tone and subject than The House of the Scorpion (Atheneum/S & S, 2002/VOYA October 2002), this novel is nevertheless deceptively complex. There is enough magic, history, and mythology to keep fantasy lovers enthralled, yet the humor, modern speech (Jack is warned to "just say no to pillaging"), and nonstop adventure will pull in reluctant readers as well-if they are not daunted by the number of pages. All will come to love the distinctive characters-especially the brash, bloodthirsty Northmen-just as Jack does on his quest.-Rebecca Hogue Wojahn 4Q 5P M J Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.