Sunday, March 1, 2015

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

Steampunk -
  1. Science fiction set in an alternate version of the historic past, especially 19th-century England, and involving advanced technologies usually based on steam power.

I needed to begin this review with a definition of Steampunk because this might be a genre you have not yet encountered.  In our library we have some wonderful examples of this such as Howls moving castle, Mortal engines and Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.  I am a huge fan of these books.

Goblin Secrets has a very complex plot.  You must take your time and read this book carefully.  The author William Alexander does not always spell things out.  In some ways reading this book is like picking up pieces of torn paper. As you collect each fragment the you must try to reassemble the whole.  Tiny references near the beginning of this tale do fit  back together until the final dramatic scenes. This book demands patience but you will be rewarded.

While I was reading Goblin Secrets this week I stopped for a moment to find a review.  I discovered this book won the prestigious US National Book Award in 2012 but it is a book that also has critics

Early in the story it is easy to see this is going to be an interesting book.  
"Stubble said Graba used to be a sailor, or a boat witch, and that she'd lost her legs in a pirate attack ... Graba killed some pirates with a look and a laugh and a lock of her hair before they cut her legs off with rusty swords."  In the opening scene, Rownie is is summoned to oil the witch's mechanical legs.  "She extended a gearwork leg from under her stool.  It was bird-shaped, with three long talon-toes in from and one in back, at the heel.  The whole limb had been made out of cooper and wood."

Rownie is sent to buy more oil but as he runs through the winding streets of Southside he sees poster advertising a play.  This is astonishing because goblins are putting on the play and because all plays have been banned and because Rownie knows his brother Rowan was a performer and these goblins might know where to find him.  Joining the goblins Rownie has so much to discover about his city. The flood is coming but how will a small orphan stop this catastrophe?

Here is a very detailed review - well worth reading after you have read Goblin Secrets first.  After reading Goblin secrets you might also enjoy The Thief Lord, The invention of Hugo Cabret and The Magician's Elephant.

I am adding the alternate cover below - which do you prefer?

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