The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

(Cover picture courtesy of Tower Books.)

Jack was eleven when the berserkers loomed out of the fog and nabbed him.  “It seems that things are stirring across the water,” the Bard had warned.  “Ships are being built, swords are being forged.”

“Is that bad?”  Jack had asked, for his Saxon village had never before seen berserkers.

“Of course.  People don’t make ships and swords unless they intend to use them.”

The year is A. D. 793.  In the next months, Jack and his little sister, Lucy, are enslaved by Olaf One-Brow and his fierce young shipmate, Thorgil.  With a crow named Bold Heart for mysterious company, they are swept up into an adventure-quest in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings.

Award-winner Nancy Farmer has never told a richer, funnier tale, nor offered more timeless encouragement to young seekers than “Just say no to pillaging.”

I read The Sea of Trolls about three years ago, shortly after my library acquired it.  Even though I didn’t quite get all of it, I remember enjoying it and picked it up again this week.  Now that I actually know the basics of Norse mythology and culture, I managed to get a lot more out of it this time around.

Set in 793 AD and told by Jack, a Saxon boy who is an apprentice bard, it certainly offers a new look at the Vikings from an outsider’s perspective.  It’s filled with historically accurate details, magic and Jotuns (trolls in Norse mythology).  And of course it has an incredibly important message for all readers: Just say no to pillaging.  Timeless.  It helps if you know a bit of Norse mythology before picking up The Sea of Trolls, but it’s certainly not a requirement as Nancy Farmer is good at subtly conveying all of the necessary information.

Jack is an amazing character that has a nice amount of character development throughout the novel.  Thorgil, the shieldmaiden, does as well.  In fact, she pretty much does a complete about-face, but after all she goes through, it feels natural.  Even Jack’s bratty little sister, Lucy, changes for the better, which was a huge relief for me as I can’t stand poorly behaved children, even in fiction.  The Jotuns are also not what I expected, which keeps The Sea of Trolls from becoming too cliché.

Overall, a very enjoyable read.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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