Rownie woke when Graba knocked on the ceiling from the other side. Plaster dust drifted down from the knocking. Graba knocked again. Baskets hung on chains from the rafters and they shook when she knocked.
Published by Much-in-Little July 2013
223 pages in paperback
Summary from Goblin Secrets website
Rownie, the youngest in Graba the witchworker's household of stray children, escapes and goes looking for his missing brother. Along the way he falls in with a troupe of theatrical goblins and learns the secret origins of masks. Now Graba's birds are hunting him in the Southside of Zombay, the Lord Mayor's guards are searching for him in Northside, and the River between them is getting angry. The city needs saving — and only the goblins know how.
Goblin Secrets is the 2012 National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature (USA)
The UK edition of Goblin Secrets has a cartoon-like cover with a dark and ominous steam train, some illuminated clock faces and a very worried-looking boy. He is our hero, Rownie – and he has every right to be nervous.
The text is set out like a play – there are acts and scenes and even curtains – and acting is a key element of the story. It takes place in an extraordinary world – where plays are forbidden; dustfish and travelling goblins are normal and where a boy can be looked after by a witch with wind-up legs. Graba – a cross between Baba Yaga and Fagin - is not his only worry.
His missing brother is high on his list. Add in a deranged Mayor with his mechanical guards and things get really interesting.
Alexander uses imaginative language: molekeys, naga, and guzzards for example, and gives many characters distinctive ways of speaking. There’s a hint of steampunk in this adventure story of a boy seeking his brother – and subtle touch of philosophy too. It’s a rich and intriguing mix that would suit confident readers from seven and above - I would recommend it for both boys and girls, as there are plenty of well-drawn female characters.
There is some peril, some sad and poignant moments and a hopeful resolution – which leaves plenty of opportunity for more adventures. Readers who love the world of Zombay will also enjoy the bonus extract from another story set there; Ghoulish Song.