Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)
Chilly day = Cat Nest (Pico, Heldig, Waffles, Smudge)

Why I Read It: I wanted something fun, light, easy.

Where I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Great kid’s story for both adults and the kids, who are probably trapped in a car together.

Narrator: William Alexander (the author)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2012)

Length: 4 CDs

Series: Zombay Book 1

Rownie and his older brother Rowan are orphaned in the town of Zombay. For a while, they both stay with other orphans at the witch Grabba’s house. But then Rowan mysteriously disappears, and Rownie is left on his own in his tentative position as errand runner for Grabba. Rownie’s world is a little harsh, with no love from Grabba, older bully kids, and deeply missing his brother. Then one day the goblins come to town to put on a play; the citizens of Zombay are forbidden to put on plays of any kind, so the goblin play is a huge novelty. Rownie desperately wants to go and conceives of a way to do so….at the peril of angering Grabba.

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.

William Alexander, the author, also provided the narration. He was excellent. I loved his voices for the goblins, for Grabba, and his soft narration for Rownie.

What I Liked: Fast-paced; the author built a mythology between the goblins, the plays, and the role of the river; the steampunk elements were woven in well, being odd & fascinating but not sitting center stage the entire book; the ending was a good mix of happy and not getting everything you wished for, making it very satisfying for me.

What I Didn’t Like: The main character, Rownie, is described as a brown boy with brown eyes; however, he is whitewashed on the cover art (which is no longer considered a mild form of racism, but rather blatant).

13 thoughts on “Goblin Secrets by William Alexander”

  1. This does sounds like fun.
    The whole thing with changing the colour of characters on the cover is annoying to say the least – sometimes I have to keep looking back to at the cover to see if I’m mistaken!
    Lynn 😀

    1. Yes, the little kid in me really enjoyed this book. And yes, I do wish publishers would stop white washing characters on the cover. I think I am intelligent enough to decide which prejudices I want to keep in my life.

  2. I read this book after it was nominated for the National Book Award…wait, it WON, didn’t it? Yup. Yes it did. Well, I thought it was a good book, though it could have been much more. I think it suffered a little from the author’s-first-book syndrome. But I’ll look forward to more books by Alexander. 🙂

    As for the cover, that’s not really the author’s fault…I always feel bad for the authors when bad choices are made for covers!

    1. That’s cool that it is an award winner. I thought the plot was very well put together.

      And Yes, you are right that the author rarely if ever has a chance to give input to the cover.

    1. It was the title that first sucked me in. Is it secrets about goblins or do the goblins themselves have secrets? You’ll have to give it a read to find out.

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