Reviews for Goblin Secrets

Booklist Reviews 2012 May #1
Readers of Alexander's debut are immediately thrust into a precarious situation as young Rownie is rudely awoken from sleep. He's an orphan who's been taken in by the witch Graba, but she is a crafty soul who wants things from the children she shelters. Doing her errands while fighting off hunger, Rownie also searches for his missing older brother. Alexander loads Rownie's plight and his flood-imperiled city with unnerving details: Graba's loft is filled with gray and mangy pigeons, and many citizens have limbs made of gears, chains, and springs. The narration is likewise distinctive, spiked with amusing dialogue between Rownie and the odd individuals around him. The most appealing creatures are a theatrical troupe of goblins who end up giving Rownie the home for which he's been searching. At times the story feels stitched together and a bit claustrophobic (the action is mostly confined to the city of Zombay), and the magic of masks and performance doesn't always come through. Still, Rownie and his very strange allies prove to be strangely charming. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
Theater is outlawed for the humans of Zombay. But when orphan Rownie flees witch Graba's custody, he joins a performance troupe of goblins he hopes can help locate his brother (who disappeared after illegally acting); the goblins hope Rownie can prevent catastrophe from befalling the city. Rownie's journey is obscured by too many fantastical elements, but the setting is imaginative.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 February #1
Rownie's search for his brother turns into an unlikely heroic quest. Lonely, young Rownie, with his too-big coat, ventures away from the gang of orphans who belong to the BabaYaga–like witch, Graba. Graba, who seems to operate outside of any authority, sports a pair of chicken-style gearwork legs, moves her house about and is able to cast her sight and thought into those of Rownie's orphan housemates he thinks of as Grubs. Rownie's riverside birthplace, the city of Zombay, is occupied by the Guard--a creepy gearwork security force in service of the Lord Mayor--and menaced by both floods and less worldly terrors. The coal energy for moving the gearwork comes from the hearts of creatures: fish, for some; people, for the Lord Mayor and others. Enticed by the hope of finding his missing older brother, last seen performing illegally in a masked play, Rownie runs away with a vagabond band of players, a troupe of Tamlin, known commonly as goblins, or the Changed. Alexander's world, blending steampunk and witchy magic, is impressively convincing and evocative in its oddities. Though highly textured, it's tightly woven and reassuringly seamless. The result is wryly humorous and bearably yet excitingly menacing: Even while much is left unexplained, Rownie's triumph is both gripping and tantalizing. (Fantasy. 9-13) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 February #1

In Alexander's debut novel, set in the magical, steampunk-inflected land of Zombay, a young orphan named Rownie lives in the household of Graba the witch, running errands and scavenging food where he can. His older brother, Rowan, used to live with Rownie and Graba's band of "Grubs," but Rowan was arrested for putting on a mask and acting--in Zombay, citizens are forbidden to pretend to be other than they are--and has disappeared. When a troupe of goblins arrives to put on a play, Rownie sneaks away to see them and angers Graba enough that he's forced to flee. He accepts sanctuary from the goblins, joining their troupe and mounting a search for Rowan, but Graba is hunting Rownie, and there are dire warnings that long-prophesied floods are coming to wipe out Zombay. Alexander has an intriguing central theme, in which masks and theater create actual magic, but the story is slow to develop. The result is a (sometimes gruesome) fantasy stuffed with interesting ideas that don't quite have room to breathe. Ages 8-12. Agent: Joe Monti, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 March

Gr 4-7--Rownie and other "stray" children live with Graba, a Baba Yaga-type witch with mechanical, chickenlike legs. His older brother, Rowan, lived with him until he became an actor and disappeared since their city outlaws acting. Rownie, anxious to find him, runs away, much to the ire of Graba. He meets a troupe of goblin actors who teach him their craft and the secrets of the masks they wear and make. He learns to trust the goblins and thinks they will help in the search for his brother. Written in "Acts" and "Scenes" as in a staged drama, the story weaves a many-webbed tale, rich in imagination with a fairy-tale feel. However, it seems as though something important is missing in the connections among the many situations as well as the story as a whole. Also, the characters, except for Rowan, seem one dimensional without much importance in the plot. True fans of fantasy or science fiction may enjoy this book but it's additional at best.--D. Maria LaRocco, Cuyahoga Public Library, Strongsville, OH

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