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text 2013-11-24 20:23
Goblin Secrets
Goblin Secrets - William Alexander

Plot Summary: 

Rownie is a young boy who lives in Zombay. He's been taken into the household of Graba, a witch whose legs resemble those of a chicken but are made of clockwork and who moves her house around on a regular basis. Rownie's sole relative is his older brother Rowan, but Rowan's an actor, and acting is outlawed in Zombay, so now Rowan has disappeared. Rownie desperately wishes to find Rowan, so he joins an acting troupe himself, one consisting of goblins, who are allowed to act since they're not technically citizens of Zombay. Little does Rownie know that the stories that the goblins tell and the masks that they use are more significant than he could have imagined, and he's about to be sucked into the adventure of a lifetime. 


Read an interview with William Alexander here.




While I really like the premise of this book, I just couldn't really get into it. The biggest problem that I have with it is that very little is explained. Alexander has created a world that is very different from our own, though it does seem to share some aspects, and I found it very difficult to follow the storyline because there was so much that I just didn't understand. At certain points, the story was very confusing. I feel that Alexander was in such a rush to tell the story that he didn't begin at the beginning and he never really made up for that. 


One thing that I did like about the book was that it drew from the Baba Yaga fairy tales. I love fairy tales and I thought it was awesome that Alexander drew from them. I also liked that even though he was clearly influenced by Baba Yaga, he also made the character of Graba his own. 


As difficult as it was for me to start this book, by the end I really was interested and I think that this series has potential to get really good - if Alexander explains more about the background of Zombay. If I run across the rest of the series, I would probably be interested in reading it. But I doubt that I'll actively seek it out. 


Recommended to: 


This book is most definitely a mid-level book. It's perfect for pre-teens - the language isn't terribly advanced and the chapters are relatively short, the story moves pretty quickly, and Rownie is close to the age of the intended audience. I think that perhaps this is why the book didn't resonate with me - maybe I'm just too old to be as entertained by it as a 12 year old would be. So I would definitely recommend this book to pre-teens, especially if they're interested in fantasy or have an interest in theater. 


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review 2013-06-10 00:00
The Mad Goblin - Philip José Farmer What sort of sleazy marketing is this? I read this book 30 years ago, and it was published 43 years ago, at least, as an Ace Double with [b:Lord of the Trees & The Mad Goblin|987993|Lord of the Trees & The Mad Goblin|Philip José Farmer|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348451468s/987993.jpg|973487]
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review 2013-03-01 00:00
Goblin Secrets
Goblin Secrets - William Alexander I enjoyed this book far more than an adult should! There’s fun steampunk like gadgets, including human limbs, through out the book. The town of Zombay itself has it’s own character, with a north side bound over the river by a large bridge to south side. The river ends up playing a key role in the book, showing the power of nature. The citizens of Zombay have all sorts of tales and fears concerning the goblins, who do look quite fierce at times. It’s eerily possible for a human to be changed into a goblin.

The story has just enough seriousness to be a little scary for kids, and to hint at darker personalities for adults. The flaming pigeons definitely left an impression. Throughout the adventure, Rownie also learns of the cruel, and sometimes horrible, source of coal – a piece of which is needed to animate various mechanical beings, such as the equine that pulls the goblin wagon. Overall, a very fun, engaging book.
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review 2013-02-03 00:00
Goblin Secrets
Goblin Secrets - William Alexander 2.5 starsI feel like I should have loved this book. The steampunky-fantasy world had a whole pile of potential, the "acting/masque is banned" premise intriguing, and the Quest engaging enough. So why did it fall so flat? I'm still not quite sure. I think perhaps characterisation took a distant back seat to world-building, and plot a closer one, and I need characterisation in my stories. I didn't find myself barracking for Rownie particularly much at all, or caring about any of the other characters. The named goblins seemed almost interchangeable, to the point that I had trouble remembering which was which. And the ending felt sudden, garbled, and unsatisfying. Perhaps my expectations were high, as I picked it up after the award, but still this barely got past a mediocre read for me. Onward.
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review 2013-01-13 00:00
Goblin Secrets (Zombay, #1)
Goblin Secrets - William Alexander When I was looking over the hundreds of books on my YA TBR mountain, Goblin Secrets jumped out at me. It is a 2012 National Book Award Winner in the Young People's Literature category. You can read an interview with William Alexander here. Goblin Secrets is his debut novel. Will also has a Minnesota connection since he is an Adjunct Professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. I was also looking for a Middle Grade book to read next. Goblin Secrets is an enchanting fantasy is a richly conceived world where magic is possible and acting—especially while wearing masks—is forbidden. Rownie is a young orphan boy aged somewhere between 8 and 10 (he doesn't really know) who lives with Graba who takes in orphaned children to use. She provides shelter and not much else for the orphans. Rownie used to have an older brother named Rowan who was an actor but he has disappeared. Rownie is determined to find him but he is not the only one looking. Graba would like to find him as would a troop of goblin actors. Rownie goes to the goblins and becomes interested in their lifestyle. He is fascinated by the masks that let them become someone else and by the stories that they tell. Also, the goblins accept him and treat him with much more kindness than he had been shown by Graba. Together with the goblins he continues the search for his missing brother who might be the only one to stop the river from flooding the city of Zombay.We gradually learn about the city and the world with Rownie. Because he is so young, he doesn't have a full understanding of the problems that the city is facing which means that our understanding grows slowly too. I liked the adventures that Rownie had as he searched for his brother. I liked how he found his own courage and place in the world. I thought the world was fascinating and I am eager to learn more about it. I think middle grade readers will enjoy the adventure and the mysteries in this book.
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