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The Prodigal Troll

by Charles Coleman Finlay

(Pyr, $15.00, 372 pages, trade paperback, published 7 June 2005.)

Review by Martin Owton

cover scanThe 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.


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