A review by fit51391
Goblin Secrets by William Alexander


Like many other reviewers, I picked up this book after it was given the National Book Award and was eager to get started with it. However, I was met with a very disappointing read. The plot has some interesting promise -- a steampunk world, goblins, theater and beautifully described masks, as well as a Baba Yaga-esque villain -- the story, setting, and characters all fell flat. While some elements of the story were compelling, including the use of interesting machinery and the imminent danger of the flooding river, many of the books story arcs felt rushed and underdeveloped.

Most disappointing of all is the protagonist, Rownie, whose search for his missing brother and efforts to gain self-confidence are brought to an abrupt and unsatisfying conclusion. Although the plot moves with Rownie's attempts and desires to stand up to his adversaries through skills learned on the stage, Rownie never truly comes alive as a character and his role in the goblin's theater troupe seems minimal. Similarly, the goblins, who play a large role, feel one dimensional and never seem to emerge as distinct or memorable characters.

The multiple story lines and lack of exposition also make this a somewhat confusing read. The characters jump from place to place, but never make any lasting interpretations of difficult themes. Likewise, many questions, including the use of human hearts as coal, the social divisions and conflicts between Zombay's Northside and Southside, or the importance of the Changed versus the unChanged, are left frustratingly unanswered. And despite the time spent on different set pieces within the story, many of the events don't seem to have a lasting impression on the characters or tie back into the story later. The tropes and devices used in this book often lack a cohesion that would allow them to benefit the story or characters as a whole.

Overall, this book starts with the potential of a fantasy adventure, but the underdevelopment of key characters and themes, as well as an ill-paced plot lead Goblin Secrets to be an unsatisfying read.

If you are looking for a more effective book in this genre, I would suggest Neil Gaiman's [b:The Graveyard Book|2213661|The Graveyard Book|Neil Gaiman|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1303859949s/2213661.jpg|2219449].