In Rump's village, names are only for people and they can decide your destiny. So when his mother dies before finishing his name, he's stuck with not only a horrible name, he's pretty sure that if he does have a destiny it will be as awful as his name. Then he discovers the spinning wheel hidden in the woodpile. Secrets, tragedy, and magic happen rapidly and he finds himself leaving the village for the first time in his life. As he travels to the castle of King Barf and to Yonder to meet his mother's relatives, Rump's name is slowly revealed. But is it his destiny to remain tangled and trapped forever, or did his mother have one last secret that will set him free?
The cover is kind of misleading - Rump's friend Red isn't actually present, other than gnome-messages, after the first couple chapters. The story does bend a little heavily for my taste to the "discovering who you are and taking control of your destiny" but it's a really fun journey to get there with lots of silly, weird, tragic, and funny steps along the way. I really liked how she showed the trolls' "simple" approach to life as neither bad nor good, but just different - Rump admires their philosophy, takes away some things to think about, but realizes his own life is much more complex (not to mention sludge is disgusting). The ending does trail off a bit - as an adult reader, I can't help wondering what's going to happen now that the economic basis of the country has basically been destroyed, but I'm not sure kids would think about that, except to wonder what really happened to the selfish king and the miller's beautiful but not particularly bright daughter.
Verdict: If you have fans of fairy tale retellings who like quirky characters and some moralizing mixed into their adventures, this will be right down their alley. I'd probably make it an additional purchase, as there seems to be a lot of these out there, but this was quite a fun read and if you have the budget I wouldn't hesitate to add it.
ISBN: 9780307977939; Published 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf/Random House; Review copy provided by the publisher