aka Not Before Sundown
Completed 4/24/2016, reviewed 5/2/2016
This is a marvelous book by a Finnish author and translated into English. It won the Tiptree Award in 2004. It’s sort of an urban fantasy, taking the mythology of trolls and turning it on its head in a contemporary setting. It’s fun, interesting, and disturbing. The book follows Angel, a gay photographer who saves a young troll from being beaten up by a gang of teenagers. He brings the troll home and tries to restore it back to health. Naturally, taking in a wild animal is always fraught with danger, especially one that was only confirmed as real in 1907.
Sinisalo peppers the narrative with information about trolls from mythology, scientific research, and the internet. She achieves this without feeling like you’re getting a biology lesson by couching it in Angel’s research on how to care for the troll. Since trolls were only discovered as more than a mythological creature about a hundred years earlier, there’s not much info on them, so Angel has to wade through a lot of faerie tales and misinformation just to figure out what to feed the troll.
Perhaps the most interesting and disturbing part of the book is that the troll exudes a pheromone that affects Angel and the people around him. Angel’s life is already turned upside down by keeping a wild animal as a pet, which is illegal, and hard to keep from the neighbors in his apartment building. It also affects his work life and of course, his social life, as more and more people become drawn to him. Sinisalo describes this masterfully as the plot unfolds in a first person narrative by Angel and some of the people affected by the presence of the troll. But needless to say, the pheromone effect is also a bit disturbing, as it affects his sex life as well.
It might also be the pheromones that made me give this book such a high rating. I reserve 5 stars for books that move me profoundly, and this one did. It reminded me a bit of “The Golum and the Jinni” in that it brings a mythological creature into an urban setting, with great prose and unexpected twists. The book is short and an easy read, but I still gasped at the climax and nearly wept at the end.