Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
My grade: 3 stars
Pros: Interesting ideas, good descriptive writing, easy to read
Cons: Lacking in characterisation and substance across the board
Nice, but ultimately forgettable.
Rownie is an orphan who belongs to a witch called Graba. He discovers the magic of masks and goblins, and they inexplicably take him in. They really want his older brother, but they don’t make him feel unimportant. Graba doesn’t like to let her things go, so she pursues him. Masks and acting are illegal, which makes the goblins’ lives hard to begin with, and Graba makes it a lot worse.
Rownie is basically decent and brave. He has innate talent with masks, which have a vague power. It felt to me that I was providing quite a bit of the information about masks and acting as a reader, and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that. Bravo for placing trust in the reader, but… it just contributes to this overall feeling I had that there isn’t much actual substance in this book.
Really, it’s just a bunch of set pieces sewn together with yarn. And by yarn, I mean Rownie navel-gazing. Don’t get me wrong, the set pieces are grand and wonderful and interesting. The scene where he wears a mask and participates in the goblins’ play was great. It just didn’t have much basis and almost didn’t go anywhere. The ending is fantastic too, in rather the same vein.
Where it definitely became apparent to me was about two thirds of the way in, when the goblins’ masks came to life and started attacking their makers/wearers. It was visually impressive. It was good use of the trope. But it felt ragged and incomplete.
I realised then that the characters were all thinly established, underdeveloped, and that I had zero connection with any of them. Even Semele, whom I think I liked? I could guess at the intention of the scene, but it didn’t mean anything. It was just there because it was a good idea. The narrative had not earned it. The characters certainly hadn’t. It was supposed to be part of Graba’s curse, but I found myself not caring to the degree that I barely noticed when Rownie broke the curse.
The writing style was pretty good, if a bit vague. The storytelling was… not pretty good. It’s a nice quick read, and if you can engage with it, then you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did. There are better books that offer cool ideas and worlds (Fly by Night, anyone?) and… something petty, but I DESPISED Rownie’s name, almost as much as the fact that it was a nickname of his brother’s name. I got the reasoning. I did not care.
Not interested in continuing this series.