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When the magic goes away, what can replace it?
In all of his novels, Lars Walker has managed to combine realism with wild fantasy, producing a fascinating hybrid genre that makes for compelling reading. As an artist, he has arrived, and he just keeps getting better and better.
In Troll Valley, as in all of his books, Walker delves into the darker recesses of the human condition, yet manages to be entertaining—even humorous—without being depressing, ranging from hilarity to pathos, which is no small feat for any writer.
His main character and narrator, Christian Anderson, is a boy struggling to become a man who was born with a major birth defect—a withered arm—but is profoundly crippled more in spirit than body.
Another sure thing about a Lars Walker book: its unpredictability. Just when you think it will go one way, Walker surprises you with unexpected developments.
For instance, consider the faltering grip of the fairy folk indigenous to Christian’s ancestral homeland, Norway, on the imaginations and spiritual lives of the settlers in the New World.
For Christian, the spirits just beyond man’s ken are a day-to-day reality embodied—if that’s the right word—in his fairy godmother. Yes, an honest-to-goodness fairy godmother (and you might as well forget everything you think you know about fairy godmothers), as well as the “red caps” who materialize when he is frightened or angry; their job is to exact a terrifying penalty on humans who would harm him.
As well-protected as he is from others, however, Christian has a greater enemy: himself. Before Troll Valley ends, he will say and do things that threaten to destroy him and the love he craves.
It might be inadvisable to call Troll Valley a roman a clef, but there certainly is a wealth of background to life on the Great Plains of the early 20th century in the grand tradition of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Willa Cather. Toss in hints of “The Ransom of Red Chief,” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and It’s a Wonderful Life and you’ll have an idea of how diverse Troll Valley is. At the risk of being trite, it would make a great movie.
And the embedded bedtime story of Snow-White-Rose-Red is laugh-out-loud hilarious; all by itself it makes the book worth reading.
You’ll love your stay in Troll Valley.
It was bone-aching cold, cold out of a sky clear as a dead man’s mind, black with the infinite blackness of space, so that the stars and the moon stung your eyes looking at them, just as the wind stung your cheeks and clawed at the space between mitten and sleeve-end. It was a wind to knock you over, out of the arctic itself, whipping great white snakes off the shoulders of the snowdrifts to curl around the farmyard.
“If only you could eat beauty. My home was a rocky little island, not much to speak of, but most of Norway is so beautiful you could cry. Fjords a thousand feet deep and smooth as a mirror, and the mountains walling them in a thousand feet high, with ribbons of bridal veil waterfalls plunging down their sides, and their tops hidden in the clouds. I think Heaven will be like that—but in Heaven we will not want bread.”
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