From Goodreads: In San Bernardino, California, children are going missing.
The townspeople don’t believe the rumours of trolls, but fifteen-year-old Jim Jr knows that they’re a very real threat. At night, is anyone safe?
TROLLHUNTERS is a funny, gruesome and undeniably del Toro-esque adventure perfect for teen readers and fans of Pan’s Labyrinth.
I have to admit- watched the Netflix show of the same name before I read Guillermo Del Toro’s book on which it was based, and while the book is entertaining, I liked the show more.
Trollhunters is similar to a lot of other fantasy novels, what with the insurmountable-seeming foe, the Chosen One hero, the plucky sidekick, and a gruff mentor who teaches the Chosen One what he needs to know in order to defeat the Insurmountable-Seeming Foe. There’s also the Girl Everyone Is In Love With, the kooky new friends, along with the awful jock, a must-pass math test, and a trimmed-down version of Romeo and Juliet happening during halftime of the most important football game of the year.
And, oh yeah. Trolls. Lots of trolls.
And a lot of grossness.
Suffice it to say that Trollhunters reads like it was intended for thirteen year old boys- gross sounds, gross smells, a teenaged boy who goes from total dweeb to sword-wielding Hero in a week. The ingredients are all there, though I feel like we could do with about half as much of the gross factor. I mean, I get that you need to burn certain parts of troll guts to make sure the troll stays dead, but I don’t really need so many descriptions of the sounds and smells to go along with it, thanks.
That said, Trollhunters is a fun and quick read, with a lot of clever quips, action, and weird beasts against a background of dire peril. Kids are going missing in a hurry, and Jim only has a week to learn the necessary trollhunting skills before disaster befalls San Bernadino.
No pressure or anything.
In my opinion, though, it’s the show based upon the book that really shines.
With the Hellboy movies, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, and Crimson Peak among others under his belt, Guillermo del Toro’s imaginative worlds are second to few and it’s hard to beat his ability to bring a fantastical world to life.
Enter the Dreamworks animated series on Netflix:
The elements of the book are all there: The Chosen One, the Snarky Best Friend, the Wise Mentor, the Girl Everyone is in Love With, and the Insurmountable-Seeming Foe. Because this is a television show with a full season of twenty-six episodes, though, the elements have been spread out and built upon, and several new characters have been added into the mix.
The gross factor has been diminished, too. I mean, they don’t avoid the fact that the trolls live underground and in sewers and eat trash, but you don’t have to read constant descriptions of sliced up troll guts. I’m okay with that. In the show, the haven of Trollmarket is a shining place filled with oddball characters not unlike the Faerie city of del Toro’s movie Hellboy 2. The Fae world as a whole features more in the show, too, with the inclusion of pixies, goblins, gnomes, magic, and a greater emphasis on Changelings- a kind of faerie creature that was put in place of a real baby so the creature could grow up in the baby’s place and influence the world for the advancement of evil troll causes.
Along with the show’s wider world of faeries, there’s a bright spark of life that isn’t so present in the book. With the book, Jim Sturges’s life is sad and colorless. His father won’t let him out after dark, he’s picked on by everyone, is short, unathletic, and not very good at anything until he becomes a Trollhunter. While Jim Lake Jr (from the show) has a similar life, he’s not just schlepping through life and just trying to get by. Jim Lake has a hope for the future that Jim Sturges doesn’t have.
The enemies that Jim Lake faces are more interesting, too. Because the show tells a longer, more complex story than the book does, the enemies can be more interesting, too. Gunmar is present in both, but in the book he’s more like a final boss in a Dungeons and Dragons game, while Gunmar in the show is a looming danger, but not the most pressing one. There are multiple enemies- such as Gunmar’s son Bular- for Jim Lake to deal with, and some of them straddle the line between friend and foe. The story of Trollhunters the television show is more complicated- and more fun- than the book.
So it is that I find myself favoring another show or movie more than the book it’s based on. Trollhunters, season one is available on Netflix. Each of the twenty-six episodes is about twenty-five minutes long, and while they’re short, you’ll want to pay attention. A lot of story gets told in those short episodes, and you won’t want to miss the interactions between Jim and Toby. Or, really, between any of the characters. Trollhunters is a smart, beautifully produced show meant for teenagers and adults alike.
Sadly, it may be a while before season two premiers. Jim Lake was voiced by Anton Yelchin, who was tragically killed in a car accident last summer. I haven’t seen any information about who will be voicing Jim in the future, but it will be hard to replace Yelchin. He did a fantastic job and will be sorely missed in future seasons.