Book Review: Trollbridge by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple

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This book is actually the second “Rock’n’Roll Fairy Tale” by the mother-son team of Yolen, the accomplished fantasy writer, and Stemple, a musician, producer, and author. But since I haven’t run across their first book, Pay the Piper, Trollbridge is the “first for me.” Set in present-day Minnesota, it combines the fairy tales of “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and “Twelve Dancing Princesses” with some Scandinavian troll-lore and a goodly sprinkling of rock’n’roll lyrics.

Moira Darr is a musical prodigy. At 16 she plays harp with the Minnesota Orchestra and has also been named one of the year’s twelve “dairy princesses,” whose likeness, carved in butter, would traditionally be left on an old stone bridge north of Duluth, near one of the earliest Norwegian settlements in the state. This year, however, the local mayor refuses to let this happen, with the unexpected result that the town breaks its age-long bargain with a troll named Aenmarr. So Aenmarr kidnaps the twelve princesses and takes them to his home, Trollholm, in a kind of alternate reality near the bridge. He intends the princesses as brides for his three sons. His other captives – including the three Griffson brothers of boy-band fame – are meant for food.

Somehow, Moira escapes the enchanted sleep that befalls the other 11 princesses, and along with the Griffson boys tries to find a way out of Trollholm. Their only ally is a talking fox named Fossegrim, who claims to be a musician enchanted into animal form. Fossegrim swears that their only means of escape is to get his magic fiddle back from Aenmarr. But Fossegrim has his own agenda, and he cannot be trusted. Caught between a dangerous enchanter and a family of man-eating trolls, Moira and the Griffsons have some tough choices ahead of them…and, in the meantime, they do a lot of singing and song-writing. (Don’t worry, it actually serves the plot.)

If your fantasy is to be a beauty queen or a rock star, this may be your kind of fantasy novel. Charged with hipness, rockitude, and teen heartthrob appeal, it also dusts off an old favorite fairy tale and gives it a sparkling new shine. It may not be the most unforgettable book you’ll read this summer, but it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon!