Derek Keilty, Will Gallows and
the Snake-Bellied Troll

Andersen, 2011, ISBN 978-1849392365

Will Gallows is an altogether unusual hero in an altogether unusual setting. Part elf, part human, he is a young sky cowboy with problems. We meet him first in the sheriff’s office, an office papered with wanted posters, just like in any western. Only these posters are for trolls and goblins, and there’s a goblin asleep in a corner. Will is after one of the criminals on the posters, the notorious snake-bellied troll Noose Wormworx. Despite the sheriff’s derision and his tender years, Will is determined to bring him in alive. Soon we discover that he is the son of the sheriff’s murdered deputy, and that Wormworx was the killer. Will wants revenge.

So begins Will’s hunt, a hunt that takes him to all the most dangerous parts of the Great West Rock, the vast cactus-shaped world on which he lives. He enters terrifying subterranean areas populated by malevolent living stalactites, bloodthirsty trolls and deadly wraiths, and meets threat after threat to his life. But he has help. His trusty flying steed Moonshine is brave and clever, and luckily they can speak to one another; he teams up with a smart girl dwarf called Jez who knows the tunnels he must negotiate; and he has the assistance of a highly resourceful ghost. With their aid, and his own skills and cunning, Will confronts his enemy ……

Keilty’s book is a ingenious amalgam of western and fantasy with a whole lot of humour added in, plus lots of illustrations. It will appeal to readers from about eight to twelve, particularly those who like their fiction quirky.