Author: Selah Janel
Publisher: Seventh Star Press, 2014
Paperback 428 pages
Digital 378 pages
What happens when a mild-mannered troll finds out that the land he has inherited is inhabited with dark magical and murderous spirits? Can he depend on his less-than-sympathetic friends? The Kingdom City mayor who wants the land? The ogre policeman? Paddlelump Stonemonger has only a few days to find help against the power that draws its victims to their doom using their innermost desires.
What begins as the story of a struggling businessman with all the normal problems of running a busy toll bridge soon turns disturbing as Paddlelump discovers the secrets lying in his forest. Reading about Paddlelump I quickly learned to like him and even his grumpy and insulting companions. The one bright spot in his life, the human waitress Flora, is as strong and smart as he is timid and gullible.
Janel's story-telling talent is in full bloom with this book. I was charmed with the characters and swept along with the flow of the story as it developed. No reader of fantasy or horror will be disappointed.
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From the cover:
Kingdom City has moved into the modern era. Run by a lord mayor and city council (though still under the influence of the High King of The Land), it proudly embraces a blend of progress and tradition. Trolls, ogres, and other Folk walk the streets with humans, but are more likely to be entrepreneurs and own start-up companies than they are to cause trouble. Maidens gather to flirt with charming shepherds, but also buy up merchandise about their favorite famous princesses. Despite progress, the old ideals linger. Princesses still want to be rescued, but they now frequent online dating services to encourage lords, royals, and politicians to win their favor. Crones still sell herbs to guarantee good childbirths or true love, but now they have to cross toll bridges to get to the meadows and forests they favor. The old stories are around, but everyone knows they're just for fun and act as fodder for the next movie franchise. No one really takes them seriously. Everyone knows those tales aren't true, just like everyone knows that there's no such thing as magic. It's all old superstition and harmless tradition. Guarding a bridge is a pretty traditional way for a troll to make a living, but Paddlelump Stonemonger is far from a traditional troll.
Bookish, timid, and more likely to carry a laptop than a weapon, Padd is quickly coming to wish he'd never put a toll bridge over Crescent Ravine. While his success has brought him lots of gold, it's also brought him a lot of unwanted attention, especially from the Lord Mayor. To make matters worse, good help is hard to find, as the maids and serving wenches now have unions. It's enough to overwhelm any businesstroll. Even Padd's oldest friends give him a hard time when his new maid seems inept at best and conniving at worst. So when a shepherd warns Paddlelump of strange noises coming from Thadd Forest at night, the troll doesn't think much of it. The land has been in his family for generations, and as the first troll to do much with it, he has bigger things to worry about. Unfortunately for him, the history of his land goes back further than anyone can imagine. Before long he'll realize that he should have paid attention to the old tales and carried a club.
Darkness threatens to overwhelm not only Paddlelump, but the entire realm. With a little luck, a strange bird, a feisty waitress, and some sturdy friends, maybe, just maybe, Padd will survive to eat another meal at Trip Trap's diner, or at least avoid being dinner for something else. It's enough to make the well-intentioned troll want to crawl under his bridge, if he can manage to keep it out of the clutches of greedy politicians. Olde School is Book One of The Kingdom City Chronicles