Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

Review: The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle
The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy #1
Reviewed by Noelle on October 25, 2012
Published September 19, 2006 by Henry Holt and Co.
Goodreads • Buy on AmazonKindleBook Depository

Kate and Emily have just inherited the estate on Hollow Hill but have no idea of the land's cursed history.  Girls have been disappearing off the property for centuries with only crazy legends about magic and goblins for explanations.  Kate begins to realize just how true the danger is once Marak the Goblin King begins to woo her.  Goblin Kings court by kidnapping and the bride is destined to spend the rest of her life below ground.  Kate is desperate to save herself and her sister, but dangers develop from unexpected sources--and sometimes, so does love.

The Hollow Kingdom was one of Catie's book choices for me in The Readventurer's She Made Me Do It Challenge.  Catie wasn't sure how I'd go for the Beauty and the Beast aspect of the story and I must admit, I've been hit and miss with B&B stories in the past.  Luckily, The Hollow Kingdom has several important differentiations from the trope that makes it one of my favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings to date.

First of all, Marak (the Beast in question), isn't an isolated brooding, angsty or self-pitying alpha male.  He's a pragmatist and a confident and compassionate leader.  Above all he's amused and delighted by most things---especially Kate.  He's friendly, he cracks himself up and it's pretty well known how much I enjoy a happy smartass.

Secondly, I appreciated that the Beast was actually, you know, a beast.  I roll my eyes when the Beast has like one scar and everyone screams monster.  Marak has six fingers, silver skin, horse hair, chrome teeth and unfortunate bone structure.  Yet I was also relieved that he wasn't so much of a Beast that the story necessitated him changing into something more socially acceptable for a viable romance to occur.

Although there were No Regrets, I'm not sure I could call The Hollow Kingdom a full on Disco Chicken, Catie.  For the first half of this book I was stressed out of my ever loving mind! (You can't yell "Wheeee!" when you're busy breathing into a paper bag.)  Yes, there was an inevitability about Kate's situation but her panic and desperation were so visceral that I couldn't help but be swept up in those feelings.

I appreciated that Kate's struggle with Marak was a battle of wits rather than a battle of physical strength (another welcome differentiation to the Beauty and the Beast trope).  I was also impressed with Kate's resourcefulness in resisting the Goblin King's abduction attempts but Marak had just enough of a magical and tactical advantage for the whole thing to be truly unsettling.

I also loved that no matter how quick thinking Kate managed to be, she had to constantly worry about being foiled by her sister's naivete.  As someone who growing up constantly had dreams of my sister inexplicably ignoring warnings and jumping into a shark-filled swimming pool, I could relate.  The supporting characters' "back away slowly from the crazy person" attitude toward Kate also added to the uneasiness factor.  I mean, even knowing what the plot was and what would undoubtedly happen, I couldn't ignore that "last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again" feeling in their interactions.

From the book summary I was surprised that more than half of the story was devoted to Kate's resistance of Marak's marriage attempts.  I expected more time to be spent in the development of Kate and Marak's spousal relationship.  I wish the reader got to witness more of the bonding scenes alluded to (I swear I'm not just being a perv) rather than just mentions of the milestones and time jumps.  The reader spends so much time viewing Marak as an adversary and the time between their marriage and the crisis that catalyzes the plot is a pretty small window to adjust to their new relationship.  While Kate has years, the reader has a chapter or two.

Still, I was charmed.  The writing was lovely and I was enthralled by the goblin world building.  Little details like the reason a goblin baby looks the way it does were just unbelievably endearing.  I'd call this recommendation a big success, Catie!  Rating: 4/5 stars.

Has anyone read the rest of the series?

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