Just Reviewed Lars Walker’s “Troll Valley” at SBR
Folks, if you enjoy something that’s different — out of the ordinary — interesting, often moving, and literally something I’ve not seen anyone do before, you should go read Lars Walker’s TROLL VALLEY. A mixture of Norwegian folklore, 1900s Minnesota, and Christian apologetica, Walker’s hero (literally named “Christian,” though he often goes by Chris) is a young man with a deformed left arm and hand who believes no one will ever love him due to his differences.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, which is Norwegian “fairy Godmother” Margit (one of the huldre folk) keeps telling him. But his unusual family, full of a crusading mother who hates alcohol, tobacco, and meat, his weak-willed father (a good man, but without enough backbone to stand up to his wife), his unrepentant sinner of a twin brother, Fred (born with two good arms), and his “sister” Sophie (raised with him, but not formally adopted by the family), just hasn’t been able to show Chris that he’s a good person who deserves the best life has to offer. Or as Walker would no doubt put it, Chris is a Christian like any other and he deserves to believe in God’s love rather than dwelling so much on how all men are sinners.
TROLL VALLEY is strongest as Christian apologetica, but it’s still a good Christian-inspired fantasy (please forgive the pun). Its historicity is excellent, its sense of place is very strong, and the detailing of this novel is superb.
But if you’ve already read my review (link is right here), you know I “only” gave it a B-plus. The main reason for this is because I felt the balance was off in a few places and that Chris needed more internal monologue, especially when he started to spiral downward. Reviews like this one are tough to write, not because the book isn’t good — it’s extremely good or I’d not give it a B-plus — but because I saw that with just a bit different of a focus, it would’ve been an easy A-plus.
Nevertheless, TROLL VALLEY succeeds at showing a window into the early 20th century and is based on Norwegian folklore, something that I have to admit I’d like to see a whole lot more of as very few novelists have delved into the Norwegian culture (nor have many dealt with any of the Scandinavian countries/folklore). This focus makes TROLL VALLEY intriguing, different, interesting, and quite humane, which is why I enjoyed it so very much.
Now, go read my review already!