Review - The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Born To Be My Baby by Bon Jovi.

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 bestselling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
Published: October 1, 2003
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 240
Current Amazon Rank: #364,884
Author's Website: Here
Want it? Find it here.

The First Line:

She had never screamed before, not when she overturned the rowboat and almost drowned, not when the ivy broke and she crashed into the shrubbery below, not even when Lightfoot bucked her off and she felt her leg break beneath her with an agonizing crunch.

My Take:

First of all, welcome to all my new followers! This is so exciting, and I'm glad I can share such a wonderful book with you today. Now you've all heard of a plethora of paranormal romances out there. It is one of the most popular subgenres in YA right now. But I'm taking you back to an early one, long before there was much in the way or faeries, sirens, and all manner of paranormal beastie love interests. You've heard of werewolf and vampire love stories. You've perhaps even heard of rarer ones with descendants of the Fates, Furies, Gorgons, ghosts or even tengu. But how about a goblin love story? Well get ready, because that is exactly what this is.

Now you might be surprised because a goblin, even a goblin king, as a love interest sounds less than appealing. And you're right. And that is the point. And that is what makes this love story so engaging. Kate doesn't love Marak. He kidnaps her, for heaven's sake! She loves the woods, the moon and stars and outdoor things, but she is trapped underground where she is never allowed to leave and she will give birth to one child only and it will be hideous monster like all the creatures she is surrounded by at every turn. It is not an idealized picture, and Clare B. Dunkle does not paint it as anything less (in fact, I read once her inspiration for this story was the idea of captured brides from different cultures and how they must have felt). Marak, the goblin king, does not make light of it, nor does he ever trivialize her pain. But he is also practical and very pragmatic, and he needs to have a human bride to have an heir and he is responsible to take care of his people. And he cares for her, and falls in love himself, much faster than she does. This combination of circumstance and sympathetic characters from all sides make for a very engaging and unique story.

And fall in love, they do. It is slow and gradual process, but that is what I like about it because it feels more real and it is so much fun to watch as it develops before your eyes. Then, things change again. I'm not going to tell you what, but Kate has to leave the underground kingdom to save a people she once feared, but now cares for deeply. This East of the Sun, West of the Moon-like turn was another of my favorite parts and quite revealing of just how much things have changed for her.

It is the characters I love most. Kate is strong and intelligent and resourceful. How she evades Marak so long is hilarious to watch, especially seeing his frustration mount with each new failed attempt. And let's not forget Marak himself. Practical and always honest (as all goblins are), this particular trait actually becomes quite funny as he points out and says things that just aren't said in "polite" society. Which brings up an interesting point. Through the course of the story we see that our world isn't as bright and beautiful as we make it seem to be, especially in comparison to something like goblins. It was this other perspective that I thoroughly enjoyed. The rest of the cast, even the minor characters were well done. Several of the goblins with their strange combinations of different animals parts will grow on you. And I'm not saying who this character is, but Charm is fantastic. :)

Now this is a part of a trilogy, but after this book it shifts to different and sometimes new characters, as is problematic with many trilogies that stray from the original characters you fall in love with.

Because, honestly, I fell in love with these two first.

The Final Word: A quick read that has a lot in it. An excellent and unique book for paranormal or fantasy lovers looking for something different.


Kimberly said...

Woo hoo! One of my favorites. It's slightly twisted in just the right direction. I loved it! And I loved how the story and your perpective on the characters changes.

Unknown said...

I've never heard of this before, but it sounds really good. I think I would really like it :)

Charlotte said...

This is a great series--I'm happy for you, making such a nice discovery!