Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"The Hollow Kingdom (The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy #1)" by Claire B. Dunkle

This has an unusual plot choice for a Young Adult book- the plot is what most would consider more adult-themed. But since it's done in a unique way, there's no issue with age appropriateness.

Upon rereading this gem, I discovered my rating on Goodreads had been changed at some point- I remember rating it four stars, and it ended up with three. This book well deserves its four stars, due to its noncompliance with all my major YA hang ups- no instalove (or even instalust), no handsome suitor(s), no blah writing, and no girls completely incapable of fighting for what they want. Instead, this book tells a non superficial love story where a girl chooses to surrender herself to what she views as monsters, in order to find her sister.

The Plot:
Orphaned sisters Kate and Emily arrive at their parents' estate near Hallow Hill to be cared for by their great aunts. One night, they get lost in the woods, stumbling onto a group of Gypsies, who they ask to take them home. Kate is wary of them and refuses to ride on the horse they offer her, so she walks home. It's soon revealed that Marak, the man who escorted her home, isn't human: he claims to be King of the goblins, and intends to kidnap her to be his bride. All his intents come to naught, though, when she arrives at his door asking for his help, promising to be his willing bride if only he releases her sister.

This book reminds me of two different fairy tales- Beauty and the Beast and Rumplestiltskin, both with happen to be my favorites. It transcends both with its storyline, but in some ways it's an homage to folk tales and those who love the idea of goblins and elves in a historical setting.

The characters in this book are what make it truly stand out from the crowd. You have Kate, who is brave enough to face her instinctive fears when she realizes she needs Marak's help, and Marak, who, despite his gruesome appearance, is kinder to Kate than many other people in her life. I have always loathed captive bride stories, but somehow this one didn't end up rubbing me the wrong way, For the author to be able to tell this well, without the need for sexual content (I swear she only mentions them kissing chastely once) and still manage convince us of the depth their relationship is truly remarkable.

The Hollow Kingdom is an unassuming book loaded with a fascinating, and at times expansive story. Not only is it set in the nineteenth century, it's also set in a hidden fantasy world, somehow avoiding the hokeyness of many similarly plotted books. If you're searching for a quickly devourable book that somehow manages the depth of many similar 500+ page volumes, The Hollow Kingdom may be for you.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars for an excellent historical/fantasy crossover!

Content: Ages 14+ for violence and cruel magic.

Page Count: 230 pages in my paperback edition.

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