Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trollhunters, by Guillermo Del Toro and Daniel Kraus

 Geek legend Guillermo Del Toro teams up with Daniel Kraus, author of the amazing novel ROTTERS, to tell an epic tale of dark fantasy.

 Soooo......what went wrong?

 Where to start?

 Daniel Kraus blew me away with his young adult debut novel, ROTTERS. And I doubt I need to list the bona fides of Guillermo Del Toro. (OK, I'll list them: MIMIC, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, CRONOS, HELLBOY, HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY, PACIFIC RIM, THE STRAIN novels and TV show, PAN'S LABYRINTH, the upcoming CRIMSON PEAK...) This was, despite the "Young Adult" tag, one of my most anticipated books of the year.

 The story starts off in 1969, in the middle of "The Milk-Carton Epidemic": Hundreds of young children have disappeared from San Bernardino, California, leaving nary a clue behind. Jack Sturges and his little brother Jim are out riding their bikes, and they lose track of time, finding themselves out as the sun sets. Jack becomes the final victim of The Milk-Carton Epidemic, taken by a massive creature under a bridge, leaving younger brother Jim to face a lifetime of fear and guilt.

 Flash-forward to the present day, where Jim is a frightened, middle-aged divorcee, raising his son Jack Sturges Jr., A.K.A. Jim, on his own, in a massively fortified house, safe behind dozens of locks and reinforced steel shutters, prisoners in their own home after sunset.

 TROLLHUNTERS is pretty much what you would expect from a monster-oriented coming-of-age tale. Jim Jr., meek and bullied by his peers, finds his destiny as a Trollhunter, and joins with a band of heroic trolls and their mysterious armored ally against the vile Gunmar The Black, the evil Troll behind The Milk-Carton Epidemic, who has returned to finish what he started in 1969.

 Everything else is as you would expect, too. Jim finds his footing as a hero, alongside his pudgy sidekick, who is straight out of central casting for fat geek friends. There's the meathead jock bully, the misguided adult aiding the evil force, the pretty girl who falls for the oddball hero.....I expected a lot from Kraus, but there's not one surprising twist, turn, or plot development. The entire book seems phoned-in, and, despite the age recommendation, which is 12-18, I would have been bored to tears by this when I was 8. Aside from some gore, a few stray mild curses, and an out-of-place scene revolving around a female Troll's nipples, this book skews waaaay younger than the publisher would lead you to believe. The book never grabbed me, and it was a real chore to finish. One bright spot are the illustrations, by Sean Murray, who provides a handful of wonderfully detailed, creature-filled, full-page pieces of art. His work was enough to keep me turning the pages until the totally predictible ending.

 I don't know if it was a case of inflated expectations, or if TROLLHUNTERS really was as dull and lifeless as it seemed to me. Regardless, with a pedigree like this, I expected a lot better of this book.

 Disney-Hyperion provided a review copy.