Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking

This isn't a traditional review, more like my personal impressions and thoughts about the Trylle trilogy from Amanda Hocking. It includes the three books, "Switched", "Torn", and "Ascend". I decided to try Hocking's books as I had heard about her achievements and thought it would be interesting to see what kind of quality a self-published book (or series of books) could achieve, from someone who must be doing something right judging by her level of success. What I discovered was an interesting take on Young Adult fantasy romance, which though it's formulaic in some ways is also different enough to stand out from the crowd.

The trilogy follows the adventures of Wendy, a young girl of seventeen who has had it hard in life. Her mother tried to kill her when she was six, resulting in mummy dearest being put away in a mental hospital and Wendy's aunt and brother raising her instead. Her mother had always claimed that Wendy was a monster, and not her daughter; that her real child was gone, killed by Wendy when she took his place. To Wendy's shock she finds out her mother was right all along - Wendy is in fact a changeling, and is genetically not human at all. She's a troll. Now I know the mental image of a troll is some dark, scary looking thing that hides under bridges and goes up against goats. But Hocking has bravely decided to take the creature "troll" and do something different with it, much as vampires and werewolves have been adapted in other, some what well known young adult romance books of late. And she includes a few subtle and not so subtle jokes about the stereotypical troll in the stories. Personally I thought it worked well, and the troll culture and society was interesting enough to keep me reading through the relatively slow (and somewhat empty of major plot developments) first book.

Things definitely pick up in the second and third books, enough so that I won't talk about them in detail as there are surprises in the story and a nice character ark for Wendy. She begins as quite an unlikable girl in the first book, selfish and a bit self-obsessed in my view. But as the story and books progress she changes, and it's a believable change considering the things she discovers and goes through. I like this in any fiction I read, as there's nothing worse than cardboard cut-out characters that never develop and never change. It's a shame I can't be so kind about the majority of the secondary characters in the Trylle trilogy, who felt more like ciphers at times then full three dimensional characters in their own right. But it wasn't any worse than other YA fiction I've read, and certainly didn't stop me from enjoying the books.

The romance was also handled well, as Hocking seems more interested in developing Wendy as an independent character, rather than reliant on the men in her life. That was an aspect of "Twilight" I really resented, how Bella's whole experience was dependent on how men treated and felt about her. Wendy is not like this. She has a job to do and she plans to do it, regardless of the romantic entanglements she gets into. Her love affairs are also not so simple, including being with someone you don't love, loving someone who you can't be with, and falling in love with someone you really shouldn't be falling for. The power stays completely in Wendy's hands as she must negotiate these matters of the heart without risking her overall mission and responsibilities.

Trolls and romance may sound groundbreaking but the books pretty much stick to a tried and tested formula you can find in many adventure and romance stories, but this is no bad thing. What you see is what you get and all three books are easy to read. Even with the errors... It pains me slightly to comment on it but I noticed a lot of errors in all three books, though substantially less in number three compared to the other two. I guess this is an inevitable side effect of self-publishing, as there aren't the range of experienced editors and proof-readers going through it before it's published. And I know that mainstream publishers release books with errors but not (in my experience) with this many errors. However I have an annoyingly sharp eye for mistakes in text (when it's another person's writing - I'm rubbish at picking up on my own) so it may not be as obvious to others. But I should say that even with the typing errors and inverted words I came across, it was never bad enough to pull me out of the story or decrease my enjoyment.

Overall I have really enjoyed the Trylle trilogy and I'm pleased that it may be made into films (personally I think one film could be enough to cover all three). They are well written and Amanda Hocking is clearly someone who can tell an interesting story that keeps reader's engaged. Some of the her phrasing is a bit unconventional but that may come from just not being trained or subject to a traditional editor. It will be fascinating to see what she achieves with St. Martin's Press and I look forward to more intriguing tales from her in the future. If you want to try a self-published book you could do a lot worse than start off with the Trylle trilogy.


  1. This is a fascinating review of Hocking's work. I have not had the opportunity to read any of her books. Now I'm considering checking them out. It's funny. I'm reading a book traditionally published and came across several errors. I didn't know what to think at first, but as I continued to see more I knew it couldn't just be me. I didn't know it was possible to print errors when using a traditional publisher, but apparently it is. My first time coming across this, or is it possible I overlooked it thinking it was just me?

    Again, I'd like to say, great review.

  2. I can't say I've ever come across "several errors" in a traditionally published book. But then again, I often find one or two. I do have proofreading experience, but it's not like I'm looking very hard.

    Alexa, do you have a book review policy per se? Let us know! If you consider taking books for review, I have one coming out this summer. I'd submit it for review if it fits your genre preference.

    I apologize in advance if you've already answered this question. Please feel free to take this comment down if you don't want my post to encourage other people asking this. I understand why you might not want to it; while it brings more people to a site, as it also takes time and effort.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Orlando: I have come across some books with a lot of errors, and others with hardly any. Funnily enough I notice that books by old hands (Stephen King for instance) have more errors in their recent works compared to their older stuff - possibly editors don't pay as much attention because of how established the author is? I'm not sure but I think as long as the mistakes don't pull you out of the story too much it doesn't matter.

    Siebendach, I might be interested in reviewing books you want to throw my way. I'll have a think about it as I need to make sure my own writing takes precedence. But I love the excuse to read stories I might otherwise miss! Keep your eyes open for a "Review submission guideline" page, assuming I decide to go ahead. I read fantasy, sci-fi, and horror in the main, though I've also enjoyed historical fiction, and thrillers. And YA, though I often feel like I'm reading as an outsider looking in! :)

  4. Absolutely! Thanks so much for considering. I'll keep an eye out for any new pages or announcements!