cover image Goblin Secrets

Goblin Secrets

William Alexander. S&S/McElderry, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4424-2726-6

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.)