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10/19/2004 Entry: "THE HOLLOW KINGDOM--"Solidly" Good, har (Preeti, Margaret)"

Hollow Kingdom

A site visitor suggested we should note Clare B. Dunkle's THE HOLLOW KINGDOM as the winner of the 2004 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature since it has a romance. So I checked this book out of the library and find that the strange courtship between the goblin king and a young girl in rural Regency England is central to the story. While in some ways unsettling all the way to the end, this was a very good read indeed. Thanks, site visitor!

Kate, a very young woman, and her even younger sister go to live with relatives in the countryside. There the older catches the eye of the goblin king in the woods, and he begins his pitiless (I like that word--it's used in the book and it's a perfect descriptor) mission of stealing her away to become his bride.

Marak is a king, but he's really no prince. He's old, misshapen, a widower, and generally kinda scary. And yet Dunkle makes him grow on you. He's almost good-naturedly amoral. By the end he's weirdly appealing and downright heroic and the romance not quite as bizarre as it should be.

I loved that Dunkle didn't make the heroine the victim, didn't make this book a captive/captor romance. Instead, as ruthless as Marak is in his pursuit and as reluctant as Kate to be captured by him, there is a battle of wits that's actually quite exhilirating to witness. The resolution to the battle is a little bittersweet but really satisfying, too.

What didn't grab me was the fact that the goblins are ugly because they value strength over beauty. Didn't quite get why Marak was attracted to pretty young girls, then. Anyway. There were some underlying disturbing things that never went away, but they made the story rich and interesting.

The goblin character novelty was great, too, i.e., having goblins at the forefront instead of the elves, whom they scorn as weak. Kinda reminds me (and =only= in the sense that goblins and elves play a major role) the Meredith Gentry books. I obviously don't read enough folklore-based stories.

Lastly, what luck. I read this book a month ago, just in time for the sequel, CLOSE KIN, to have come out. CLOSE KIN also promises a romance in the next generation of characters. I liked THE HOLLOW KINGDOM enough to order CLOSE KIN new in hardcover from Amazon.--Preeti


Close Kin

[Margaret's review contains SPOILERS! but does correct the numerous mistakes I seemed to have made in my review.--Preeti]

After Preeti's interesting review I checked out the local library and found a copy which I read last night. I found it well-written and enjoyable. There's not much I can add to Preeti's review except a few comments:

Kate is 18 at the start of the book and her sister Emily is 11. Emily will be the heroine of the next book.

I didn't find Marak amoral. True he was determined to make Kate his wife, regardless of her wishes, but that was for the survival of his race and he did her as little harm as he could, in the circumstances, although he did tease her dreadfully. After the marriage he treated her kindly and did all he could to make her happy, apart from letting her leave.

I, too, appreciated the fact that Kate was not a victim. She resisted Marak to the best of her abilities and was more successful than either he or she expected.

Preeti commented that, as goblins valued strength over beauty, it was odd that Marak went for a pretty young girl. I didn't find this odd as it's mentioned, more than once, that Marak was part elf and this accounted for his appreciation of beauty. Also, although Kate isn't physically strong, she's very strong in a number of other important ways.

The library has the sequel on order and I've requested it.--Margaret


Thanks for correcting my mistakes, Margaret. I wrote this review in about five minutes yesterday after having read the book a month ago, and the sloppiness showed (although I hope my enthusiasm for it did too!)--Preeti

--CLOSE KIN at Amazon

Replies: 4 Comments

Thanks for reviewing this. I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to read it and you guys just made up my mind.

Posted by Dana @ 10/19/2004 07:57 PM ET

Glad to help. (And hopefully persuading you off the fence on the side of reading the book!)

Posted by Preeti @ 10/20/2004 05:59 PM ET

Preeti & Margaret,

I was so pleased to read your reviews of The Hollow Kingdom! I know that we authors shouldn't go snooping around Googling our own books like this, but if the result is this much fun, I'm afraid we'll just keep doing it.

Preeti, you mentioned wondering why Marak would be interested in a beautiful girl if goblins are more concerned with strength, and that's a good question. Actually, goblins would say that they enjoy beauty: they just appreciate a broader variety of it than elves or humans do. If a woman has bat wings or snake eyes--hey, she's still beautiful! They feel for the elves the kind of annoyed pity we might feel for someone who only gets excited over redheads and can't see the appeal of anybody else.

But Margaret made the point that it is actually Kate's strength that interests Marak most, and this is true. Marak has decided to marry Kate as a state decision, not as a personal choice: he thinks she'll make the best King's Wife for his people. He already knows what she looks like, and he does find her attractive, but this is not really the point. It is only after he talks to her and comes to understand her personality that he really takes a personal interest in his approaching marriage. Suddenly, the old goblin King is enjoying life again--he's met his match at last.

Posted by Clare B. Dunkle @ 10/21/2004 02:34 PM ET

Thanks for the insights! I'm looking forward to the sequels.

Posted by Preeti @ 10/22/2004 12:09 PM ET

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