Book Review: The Troll by Nicola Monaghan

Modern day fairy tales are often full of tired clichés and annoying attempts at 21st century twists, but Nicola Monaghan’s The Troll is a beautiful exception. It tells the chilling tale of three old school friends who become the target of an internet troll, who threatens to bring to light events from their dark (and to us, unknown) pasts. Although most internet trolls stay hidden firmly behind their screens, this story speculates on what would happen if one were to enter reality.

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The story is split into three novellas, each an exciting story of its own. Each starts and ends with a blog post that sounds like a classic fairy tale, yet enriched with the tone of a spiteful villain. I love this twist, where the tale is told from the point of view of the villain of the story, and it makes me think of The Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The blog is a great way to move the story along in general, and is used at many points during the story to great effect.

One day, they learned how to get to Fairyland. Back then, this trip was much cheaper and *so* much easier. They needed only to find the magic beans, or the small squares of enchanted paper, to take them far, far away.

This section from one of the blog posts is also a great example of how the writer manages to describe drugs from the perspective of a user. It’s an unusual way of describing them, but works really well in the context of the narrator.

As far as imagery goes, this story is full of it. In every good book there’s always at least one image that sticks in your head, and this one is no exception. For me, it’s the image of a dead rabbit strewn across one of the character’s front gardens.

…a rabbit whose head had been dragged around like a pen to make a message…she picked up the animal’s body parts and entrails, heaving as she went. She put it all into the bin bag. She was pretty sure it wasn’t recyclable, and had no idea if it was legal to put dead rabbits in your rubbish bin.

This is my favourite scene in the story because it’s so well written and the imagery is amazing. I love how the writer has paired such a disturbing image with humour without going over the top. It’s the narrator’s internal monologue that makes this such an amusing scene. Without hearing her thoughts, we’d undoubtedly just find it horrifying. This addition of light humour adds to the tension of the piece and keeps it gripping.

There are two narrator’s in the story; Kelly and Louisa. Kelly is my favourite narrator. She’s such a likeable character, with her Bridget Jones-esque life and ‘fuck it’ attitude. I found myself loving her and sympathising with her troubles; it was almost like she was my own friend. Her voice is strong and funny, and even when she’s talking about serious things there’s always the edge of humour there.

Lousia, however, is a character I could do without. Don’t get me wrong, she’s written so, so well and exists off the page just as much as Kelly does, but I just straight out do not like her. I found her to be annoying and irritating, constantly with her head in the clouds and not knowing what she wants. And then when she knows what she wants, she never goes for it. She acts innocent throughout the story but she isn’t, and deep down I’m sure she knows that. The writing of Louisa though is fantastic. Her insecurities are shown very subtly through her narration, and Jack (her husband) humanises her a lot.

Jack himself is a very interesting character, especially when compared with his brother, Adam. Adam, Kelly and Louisa are the three being terrorised by the troll, and so have been good friends since they were very young. Jack is very different to them though. He’s sensible and reliable, which contrasts with Adam and Louisa’s uncontrolled chaos of lives. This contrast makes him an interesting character as it helps to highlight how unpredictable Adam, and helps me to understand why Louisa is sometimes wanting more from him.

My only issue is with the end of the story. I can’t really say much without ruining it, but what I can say is that I wish Kerry and Louisa’s lives had both changed to the same extent. I mean, I’m happy with the ending and it works, but it’s a little too perfect in parts for me. As horrible as it sounds, I wanted it to be a little less happy in some ways so it balanced more between them (Sorry if that doesn’t make sense, but hopefully when you read it yourself you’ll get what I mean!).

Even if you find yourself not liking this story (which I highly doubt), you’ve got to admire it’s style. Not only is it a fairy tale with a troll entirely based in the world of social media, it even reads like social media. When it’s Kelly’s turn to narrate we see ‘@kelly’, and for Louisa ‘@louisa’. And in Kelly’s parts, the hashtags are hilarious. Kelly is a local celebrity, a radio DJ, so is always on social media. So of course naturally her narration also reads like it’s come straight from Twitter. ‘#shit’. I love how in character they are too, for example ‘The #SinsOfTheMother and all that’, ‘#FiftyShadesOfSomething’ and ‘The last thing she needed was another #nutter in her life’. They read so naturally and well, it strengthens Kerry’s character and makes her even more loveable.

It’s also worth mentioning, from a literary point of view, the metaphors and descriptions in the story. There’s one part where Louisa is reminiscing about her past, but rather than the usual smells or sounds taking her back and being the prominent image it’s colour.

Orange inlaid with purple on wallpaper in her aunt’s living room. Green with a lighter green on a pair of curtains at their gran’s house. Puke green.

I love how this is a different way of remembering and describing the past in a story, without making it boring and forced.

Kelly’s metaphors are what really get me going though. My favourite being ‘it felt like the circus had come to town…the clowns were doing somersaults and the lions were roaring’, used to describe a hangover. Not only does it sum up the general idea we get of Kelly in the book, but it also creates quite an unusual and interesting image.

The story itself is full of suspense, and like good sex it builds us up numerous times and backs away just as we get close to reaching the climax. At some points it even gets frustrating. It builds to a point where we finally feel like we’re going to find out about what happened that summer, and then the chapter abruptly ends and we’re back to drunk Kelly, or Louisa’s mundane love life. ‘#fucksake’.

The book itself, as an object (and of course by object I mean e-object), is professional and looks like it could be available in bookstores. The cover designs are great and the typesetting on the inside is very professional. It looks amazing and just shows how much of an impact indie publishing is making in the publishing world. I love it.

 

Nicola Monaghan is an indie writer to look out for. Her previous work (The Killing Jar, Starfishing) is only the beginning of her career, and each piece gets better (and a little darker) than the last. She’s a great writer, with gritty, bone-chilling stories that strike at the heart of real issues like drugs, cyber-bullying and relationship problems. It’s rare that I give a 100% positive review (seriously, take a look at my others here), but this story truly deserves it. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye out for Ms Monaghan’s next work.

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