When I cracked open Molly Ringle’s The Goblins of Bellwater and started reading, I learned one thing very quickly: these are not your Goblin King’s goblins.
You know what I mean – or, well, presumably you do if you grew up in the 1980’s and/or love fairies (good and bad), goblins and Gelflings, not to mention Skeksis and all things Froudian. There is one Goblin King, and Sarah’s not the only one who was transported by his hip-waggling struts of rock’n’roll seduction.
Er, but back to Bellwater and it’s terrifying assortment of goblin thieves and all their sticky, sticky fingers. Basically, Bellwater is a town under siege and only one poor fool with a family curse even knows about it:
Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out. Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.Then Kit starts dating Livy, and Skye draws Kit’s cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods. Skye and Grady are doomed to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever, unless Livy, the only one untainted by enchantment, can unravel the spell by walking a dangerous magical path of her own.
A woman fighting for her sister? Coffee shops and sketchbooks? Goblins and woods and secret curses and magical bureaucracy? Sign me up! Which Michelle Halket of Central Avenue Publishing kindly did, by sending me the novel for review.
LET’S MEET OUR MAIN CHARACTERS
Kit Sylvain is your typical small town sexy mechanic chainsaw artist with a penchant for carving mythical creatures from illegally collected driftwood. He doesn’t have a lot of personal relationships on account of a goblin curse – if I had a nickel for every time a dude told me that the morning after, I’d… have no nickels. Kit’s a good guy who hates stealing anything that’s not driftwood, but he’s sometimes slow on the uptake.
Skye Darwen is a fantastic artist and professional barista who loves the woods and is ready to make her mark on the world – at least until that old story unfolds: girl meets goblins, goblins force-feed girl a gross pastry, girl wastes away in the world of mortal men. She’s no damsel, though – she fights her curse with thought and choice.
Grady Sylvain loafs about Bellwater as an itinerant chef and grease monkey, putting him in prime position to get caught up in everyone else’s curses while just trying to get a sweet restaurant job in the big city. He’ll be playing the role of damsel in this narrative.
Livy Darwen is a no-nonsense Forest Service employee who swears at litter on the daily; she’s also as fierce a protector of her local environment as she is of her sister. She fights firmly in the rational world, until her world is knocked askew by thieving goblin bastards and the mysterious locals… and Kit, who tumbles her in more ways than one.
THEN THERE ARE THE GOBLINS
These goblins are straight out of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” which is ideal since that poem inspired Molly’s novel. They’re misshapen, hooting things filled with violent, larcenous hearts – and they love a good, simple contract with all its opportunities for exploitative mischief. They murder, they assault, they bespell – they inspire lurking unease and inscribe the word goblin once again with genuine fear. Molly’s achievement here is not to be underplayed.
Each goblin is named for the first thing they stole, from Redring their ruler to Flowerwatch their whipping goblin. I kept waiting for Fidget Spinner or iPhone to turn up, but they stayed determinedly off-screen. That’s not really a joke – in considering our modern shiny things, you just know there are younger goblins with those names! (Okay, maybe not the iPod one – I bet Apple’s lawyers can find even a magically shielded goblin in order to defend their trademark.)
I’m a sucker for stories of family in small towns fighting for each other. Throw in solid Fair Folk mythology, a paranormal romance element that manages to be sexy while playing against mainstream tropes, and a big magical quest being undertaken by a badass lady and you have my attention.
This is also a story about the things we can’t tell each other and how we can love our families but still miss important things. Molly’s descriptions of Skye’s attempts to communicate via her artwork are stunningly visual, and she does a spot-on job of leaving you feeling conflicted but engaged by certain story elements.
There are a few missteps in this novel – the early to mid-novel is plagued by repetitious thoughts from the characters which can quickly become annoying. The mysterious locals and their magical quest don’t feel earned – this story’s so steeped in Old World fairy tale lore that there’s no real room made for the new to breathe and hold its own.
All that said, I enjoyed The Goblins of Bellwater and it’s a quick read: at $3.82 on Kindle, it’s an uncursed treat you shouldn’t deny yourself. I give this novel 4 out of 5 goblin fruits!
Don’t miss out on Molly Ringle’s guest post here on GeekDame: To Taste Magical Fruit, complete with plum torte recipe!
Notes: The publisher provided me with an Advance Review Copy of this novel; in turn, I provided an honest review. Also, if you click on my affiliate links in this post and make a purchase on Amazon, GeekDame will receive a small kickback.