The Prodigal Troll
(Pyr, $15.00, 372 pages, trade paperback, published 7 June 2005.)
Prodigal Troll is the first novel from Charles Coleman Finlay; a
name that will be familiar to readers of The Magazine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, where Charlie's short fiction has become a
regular feature in the last couple of years.
Claye is the son and heir of Lord Gruethrist. Only a few weeks old
he is carried from the besieged castle of his father by his nursemaid
escorted by a knight. They journey through the war torn landscape before
both the nursemaid and knight are killed. The infant is claimed by a
young female troll mourning her own dead child and raised amongst the
trolls. When Maggot, as the trolls named him, grows to be a young man
he returns to the world of men seeking a mate. Here he finds comradeship,
betrayal and conflict and a woman to pursue.
The opening chapters are certainly competent and comparable with many
fantasy first novels, however when we enter the world of the trolls
the book steps up a gear. Charlie Finlay writes with commendable clarity
and an elegant turn of phrase. He creates a charming and believable
troll society, and Maggot/Claye, the innocent abroad, is an interesting
and engaging protagonist.
So an unreservedly positive review then? Well no actually. When Maggot/Claye
returned to the world of men I was expecting the plot to take off, for
Maggot/Claye becomes the focus of momentous events and it just doesn't
happen. Maggot/Claye's journey remains a personal one and not the catalyst
for some greater story. Many people may feel that this is enough and
simply luxuriate in Charlie Finlay's writing. I just wanted more.
This is still an entertaining and well-written book, and Charlie Finlay
is a writer to watch.