Troll by Richard Sutton
Reviewed by Rob Bayliss
Please see below for giveaway details!
We are introduced to the clan who once dwelt in the cave. A young clan member called Mokolo is mourning the death of his father, a renowned hunter called Slatolo. Mokolo is clever and dextrous and has the task of crafting traditional hunting spears with fire hardened points. We learn of the ways of the clan: a highly organised matriarchal society, dominated by the elderly Clan Mother, a skilled healer, oral archivist and seer who never leaves the ancestral cave.
The clan are hunters and gatherers living in a dangerous world. They have to contend with predatory cats with huge knife-like teeth and have an uneasy truce with the Great Cave Bears who they fought with long ago in order to claim the cave as their own. Lately however, a new and more dangerous enemy has entered the valley below. They are men, but not like the Clan. We learn that Slatolo himself was slain by these other men, using tiny feathered spears, with flint blades. The Clan is greatly troubled and the Clan Mother wishes for the Clan to discover the secrets of these “arrows”. Mokolo is charged with copying this new technology, which he does, but the new spears seem useless when thrown, even when using spear throwers. It is known that the newcomers can “throw” them accurately and at great speed.
To have any hope of successfully resisting the newcomers the Clan Mother insists that the secret of launching these tiny spears must be learnt. The Clan Chief, Datolo, takes Mokolo and the Clan Mother’s granddaughter and acolyte, Anas’kala, to spy on the newcomers. The spies watch a hunting party of strange fair men launch the arrows using bent sticks strung with sinew. They return to the cave to report their findings and Mokolo is put to work reproducing what he has seen. Successfully learning the craft of bow making and archery, through trial and error, the scouts are sent out again to ascertain the newcomers’ numbers. The Clan Mother fears the newcomers and their intentions, knowing from oral tradition that they have always exterminated clan folk in the past.
However, the spies do not go unnoticed by the tribe of newcomers. The Tribal Seer convinces the Chief that the Clan is a direct threat to all of them and demands, that as the tribe's best hunter, Anson lead an expedition of eradication to the Clan's high valley. But Anson's daughter is gravely ill and the only cure available forces him to question where his tribal and individual loyalties lie.
Troll is a beautifully written book. Mr Sutton has done a great job in creating and describing the Neanderthal culture and society, at once similar yet different to our own. I found myself completely absorbed by the story, with its undercurrents of racism, ethnic cleansing, fear and ignorance of the “other”. Personally I found the idea that the mythology of trolls, with their coarse features, could be an ancient folk memory of earlier hominids a wonderful notion. It has always been supposed, from previous studies of the fossil record, that the distinct Neanderthal culture was pushed to the periphery of their ancient hunting grounds by technologically superior modern humans and were subject to genetic bottlenecks as advancing ice packs isolated them further, pushed in fact, to extinction. But was this truly the case?
New research sheds light on these tough evolutionary brothers of ours. They had elaborate funeral ceremonies; this suggests a spiritual belief system. Therefore, like us, they most probably looked at the stars and philosophised about their existence. They lasted 200 millennia and survived numerous ice ages. They invented tanning, to waterproof their leathers. They wore beads and jewelry and shared their caves with body lice which indicates that they wore clothes. It suggests that modern humans actually copied the Neanderthals’ wisdom and technology to a great extent. We intermingled then, and as modern Europeans share
1-4% DNA with Neanderthals such intermingling may have got very passionate indeed!
These were not simply the brutish fur clad cavemen of popular myth; it may well be they were and are us!
Troll is available for Kindle and as paperback at Amazon. There is also a free copy up for grabs---from Smashwords for an eBook format--and all you do to get your name in the hat is comment below! Facebook users may also comment here.
This review was written by Rob Bayliss. Rob is currently working on his Flint and Steel, Fire and Shadow fantasy series. Part one, The Sun Shard is available at Amazon.
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