Hilda’s adventures continue in this latest installment. For readers new to the series, the events in the previous book are recapped at the beginning: Hilda’s yearning for adventure has once again gotten her in trouble and she breaks out at night for a dangerous adventure. Both she and her mother were caught up with the trolls on the mountain and barely escape, but the adventure ends with the mysterious swap of a baby troll and Hilda…
This new story begins with Hilda the troll fleeing through the woods, panicked and bewildered, pursued by the “mother” troll. As both Hilda and her human mother struggle to be reunited, they also learn more about themselves, their city, and the trolls that live outside the walls. Hilda yearns to be back with her mother, but can’t deny her inner longing for freedom and adventure, as well as the exuberant joy she feels in exploring the trolls’ wilderness. However, she is also frightened by the trolls’ often violent and seemingly emotionless life. When she learns more of their history, she has to make a difficult decision as to who to trust if she is going to be able to return to her human form. Hilda’s mother is equally challenged, trying to care for the troll-turned-human baby while searching for her daughter, and realizes that without help she is unlikely to ever see Hilda again. Both Hilda and her mother make decisions that will have a permanent effect on the citizens of their town and the trolls whose land they have taken.
Although there’s no hint that this is the final Hilda book, in many ways it feels like a final story, bringing together the many themes of outsiders, complex issues of ownership, and Hilda’s own struggle between love for her family and her desire for freedom and adventure. From the first book, Pearson has thoughtfully addressed the issues caused by humans moving into the land of the wild, magical creatures. This comes to a head in the increasingly dangerous relations between trolls and humans in this story. Pearson avoids having Hilda discover that trolls are “just like humans” and everything is a misunderstanding. In many ways, Hilda realizes the trolls are even more alien than she had thought after she becomes one of them. There’s no final happy ending where all live together in perfect harmony, but there is understanding and acceptance of their differences and needs.
As suits the darker, more intense plot of the book, the color scheme shifts to grays, browns, and a more washed-out, stony blue for Hilda’s hair. These are interrupted by violent red images in flashbacks to the trolls’ past, with red-tinged images of blocky stone figures moving across a seeming wasteland of bare earth and caves. Readers who have previously visited the series will recognize the earth colors of the town, beige, pale yellow, and light orange, as well as some familiar characters like the hairy nisse, Tontu, who can take different forms.
This book will appeal most to fans of the Hilda series who are already familiar with our blue-haired heroine, and the quick recap at the beginning will help them remember the most immediate preceding events. Readers new to the series can start with this title, but they will miss the build-up of the characters and their motivations and will find themselves confused by the sequence of events. This is a must-have for libraries who own the previous titles in the series, especially since it continues from the cliff-hanger of the previous book, Hilda and the Stone Forest. For readers who haven’t met Hilda yet, recommend this series to fans of Amulet, the Moomins, and those who enjoy a more gentle read with strange and wonderful characters.
Hilda and the Mountain King, Book 6
By Luke Pearson
Flying Eye Books, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 7 and up
Series Reading Order