A review by mariahistryingtoread
Goblin Secrets by William Alexander


This was a pretty average read. I liked it well enough. It just wasn't notable.

The best part about it was the worldbuilding. The divide between the goblins and humans, the regulations made by the Mayor, the body modifications, and the magical system all created this really immersive atmosphere. It wasn't the best I've ever read, but it certainly did draw me in. And more than that I could tell that the author wanted it to make sense and took pains to make sure it flowed together. I appreciate when an author has a clear vision that they want to execute rather than play it fast and loose to get to the parts they actually want to write.

But, Rownie was a huge drag. He didn't have much personality other than 'Rowan's little brother'. There were times when William Alexander tried to add little sarcastic or mischievous quips, but it never felt genuine. It didn't run deep enough to make it a legitimate facet of his character. A sarcastic boy would always be sarcastic not just when it was his regularly scheduled time for a (not so) funny comment. There were so many times that the book would say 'thousands of questions flew through Rownie's mind' only for Rownie to ask One question or none at all. He barely commented on events. He didn't ever complain. He was so well mannered it was actually annoying.

Every other character was more interesting than him. I wanted to hear more about the goblins' struggles in a world that despises them for merely existing. I wanted to know more about how each goblin came to join the troupe. Heck, even Rowan who we only got to know through the occasional flashback sounded like he would have made a more compelling protagonist.

I also don't see what made him so special that the goblins would want him for their troupe. Thomas makes it clear he was sought out originally for information on Rowan. But, Rowan has not been in contacted with Rownie and he also hasn't shared any mysterious warnings that will eventually make sense as the story unfolds. Nor does Rownie have any insight into Rowan's mind that would come in handy.

Thomas also says that Rownie has a bit of talent for acting. But, then Rownie is rendered incapable of acting almost immediately because his adopted grandmother has cursed the troupe as punishment for Rownie escaping her household.

So basically he's totally useless. I understand that the goblins are actually kind and as such, have a bit of a soft spot for Rownie. However narratively it doesn't fly.

Alexander has hooked the entire progression of the novel on Rownie rather than having Rownie react to the circumstances around him. So the book stalls. The troupe doesn't put on shows or actively look for Rowan. They sort of just plod on with Rownie tagging ineffectually behind them.

The lack of actual events occurring means there can't be any suspense either. The floods apparently are coming posthaste yet there's no urgency to find Rowan. Rownie hasn't seen his supposedly beloved brother in months and even he doesn't try to force the issue.

The resolution is disappointing. All the intrigue and corruption and secrets suggested by the plot synopsis are crammed into the last few chapters making it feel rushed. I also felt misled since most of the book wasn't doing anything with its concept like the synopsis suggested it would.

Apparently this is a series which I didn't know going in because this was a random audiobook pick. This wasn't so bad that I wouldn't give the sequel a chance though. I actually think it might be better because it won't have to spend all its time setting up the pieces. Granted neither did this book, but hey I'm optimistic. If you want a simple, very quick middle grade fantasy with decent ambience and a glimmer of potential moving forward then look no further.