book review

The Sea of Trolls by Newbery Honors Author Nancy Farmer

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The Sea of Trolls is the first volume of a fantasy trilogy by three-time Newbery Honors winning author, Nancy Farmer.

The Sea of Trolls

Jack was eleven when the Berserkers loomed out of the fog and nabbed him. “It seems that things are stirring across the water,” the Bard had warned. “Ships are being built, swords are being forged.”

Is that bad?” Jack had asked, for his Saxon village had never before seen Berserkers.

“Of course. People don’t make ships and swords unless they intend to use them.”

The year is A.D. 793. In the next months, Jack and his little sister, Lucy, are enslaved by Olaf One-Brow and his fierce young shipmate, Thorgil. With a crow named Bold Heart for mysterious company, they are swept up into an adventure-quest in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings.

Award-winner Nancy Farmer has never told a richer, funnier tale, nor offered more timeless encouragement to young seekers than “Just say no to pillaging.”-Amazon

My View:

My family is made up of hearty  Swedish Americans who come from solid Viking stock. We have always been fascinated by Viking lore and love studying and learning about the Vikings.

Reading The Sea of Trolls left us wanting to become Skalds, which is just another name for bard….which (in case you were wondering!) was a professional poet employed by a patron, such as a monarch or nobleman, to commemorate the patron’s ancestors and to praise the patron’s own activities. In a nutshell, we wanted to tell our stories through song and poems, learn to be one with nature, and who wouldn’t want to include a dragon or two?

Even though this book does deal with thought-provoking subject matter such as death, slavery, pillaging and magic. There are not gross or morbid details.  This story wonderfully weaves the interactions of three very different cultures. It does so with a seamless blend of history, humor, and suspense.

In The Seas of Trolls the main character Jack is thrilled when the Bard takes notice of him.  It’s a highly sought after opportunity to be the old man’s apprentice and learn the magic that this particular Bard possesses. But Jack’s life is suddenly thrown into chaos when a nightmare sends the Bard into insanity and a band a Berserkers attacks his village. Jack is captured along with his beloved sister Lucy.  Jack knows he is now at the mercy of Olaf One-Brow.

Olaf One-Brow

This fantasy has such a rich texture and weaves history (Viking Berserkers, and the destruction of the Holy Isle) with legends (Jotunheim, trolls, Norse gods and Yggdrasil), and never makes you leave your belief that it could have happened just like this. The Bard has wonderful insight into nature and happiness which alone is worth reading this book. Jack himself also evolves wonderfully throughout the story and turns from an ordinary farm boy into a sensitive, intelligent bard.

Something To Do

Wolf and Sheep Game

Many times throughout the story Jack would play a game called “Wolf and Sheep” with Thorgil or others that they were spending time with. This is a very old Viking game originating in Iceland. It can be found throughout Scandinavia but also in England,Scotland, and Ireland.

Playing boards are either made out of clay,or cloth. We made a salt dough version which is fun and easy.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup salt
1 cup cold water
In a large bowl, mix the salt and flour together. Add the 1/2 cup of water and stir until you have a dough. You might need to get your hands in there to complete making it into a round ball.

To make the board: Place a little flour on a cutting board. Take 2/3 rds of the dough and roll it out into a circle a 1/2 inch thick. With a marble or glass stone make marks in the dough for the game board. Three circles across and 7 circles down. For the horizontal rows do the same thing intersecting with the vertical lines.

Heat oven 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Place on parchment paper in the oven for two hours or until the dough is hard.

Any leftover dough place in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to be used later.

The Game:

  • First we need to decide who will be the sheep and who will be the ram. The one whose first name is closest to the letter Z is the one who gets to pick which they would like to be Sheep or Wolf.
  • The Sheep person always goes first. They move one step at a time. They can move forward,diagonally forward or sideways but never backwards.
  • The wolf can go in any direction. If there is an empty hole in any direction around the lamb the wolf may skip over the lamb and take that playing piece off of the board. If the wolf can skip over many sheep in the same move it may do so, removing the lamb pieces off of the board.
  • The lambs win by encircling the wolf so that he cannot move anywhere to take away the sheep pieces.
  • The wolf wins if he has taken away all of the sheep pieces, or if he can get to one of the holes in the bottom row.

4 thoughts on “The Sea of Trolls by Newbery Honors Author Nancy Farmer

  1. Sounds like a book we’d enjoy! I recently read The Sleeping Army by Francesca Simon – all about Norse Gods. It’s a fun book, and quite thought provoking as it gets its readers to imagine what the world would be like if christianity hadn’t happened, and the Norse Gods were still was the UK population worshipped.

    1. Oh I’ll have to go and find that book. It sounds really fascinating. Thanks for suggesting it Zoe and I hope you enjoy The Sea of Trolls.

  2. Both my boys love these books…we borrowed them from our local library about 5 years ago and then bought the audio versions as they loved them so much…they still get regularly listened to and Norse mythology seems to be mentioned here on a daily basis! 😀

    1. The audio version sounds fantastic. Will have to go and find a copy. Emily while we were visiting family and friends in Sweden this summer I thought of you and your boys so often as I was completely surrounded by Viking everything. We must get our boys together before they are men and create a few viking moments. 🙂

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