Cath at Read Warbler wrote an irresistible review of this book, and while it took me ages to get to it, I am so glad I finally did! Best of all is the fact that this is part of a trilogy, and all the books of the trilogy have already been published. So no waiting around for subsequent books to be released.
The story, set in 19th-century England, is about two sisters, newly orphaned, who travel to the country estate that is to be their new home. Kate is the elder of the two, probably about seventeen or eighteen years old, and very beautiful. Her little sister, Emily, is quite a bit younger, energetic and outspoken. The two girls meet their guardian, a cold, bookish bachelor who sends them to different house on the estate to live with their two elderly aunties.
The land around them is old and fascinating to the girls, who enjoy being outside in the open air as much as possible. One night they become inexplicably lost on their way back to the house. After walking and walking, they finally come across a group of gypsies. One of them, a tall, cloaked man, offers to take them up on his horse and back to the house. Emily agrees readily, but Kate feels an immediate distrust of the man, refusing to go near him. He mocks her the whole way home, and when they arrive she feels a that she's been bit foolish and unnecessarily paranoid. But after Emily runs into the house, the man, Marak, removes his hood and reveals his true, shocking form. He is a goblin - the king of the goblins, in fact - and he is determined that Kate will be his bride.
Kate is equally determined that she will not be his bride. But Marak has magical powers, and when she turns to her family for help, they believe she is overstressed, hallucinating, overwraught from grief. While Marak is hideous and frightening, as Kate comes to know him better she finds that he is always truthful, and is driven by the need to protect his people. She discovers that the humans around her can be selfish, duplicitous and downright cruel. In an unexpected turn of events, Kate finds herself entering Marak's kingdom of her own free will, and from there she embarks upon an adventure that will forever alter the course of her life.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and I'm so grateful to Cath for recommending it in her review. It is always a pleasure to discover an author you know will become a favorite, and to have all those as-yet-unread books to explore! The characters were very well drawn, and I particularly enjoyed watching the relationship between Kate and Marak evolve. The goblin kingdom was mysterious and different, full of wonder. I particularly loved the protective spell in the shape of a snake, which becomes an intriguing and humorous character in its own right. I am very much looking forward to the next book in this gripping trilogy.
Books in the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy:
1. The Hollow Kingdom
2. Close Kin
3. In the Coils of the Snake
The Hollow Kingdom (Book 1 of the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy) by Clare B. Dunkle (Henry Holt and Company, 2003)
Also reviewed at:
Coffee and Ink
For the Freaks
And also: Check out this post at Becky's Book Reviews for an interview with Clare Dunkle!