The Hollow Kingdom

The Hollow Kingdom - Clare B. Dunkle Holy ***! I did not expect to like this book so much. A year ago, at this time of the year, I was reading probably my favorite book of the year 2013. And it may be that this one would be, at least, one of my favorite of 2014.

This charming book has all the elements I look forward in a book: adventure, magic, a bit of romance, clever characters, villains... The only thing missing is that I did not cry... there are no sad or moving moments, which is one of the points of rating a book 5 stars. But as soon as I finished, I did not doubt that the rate should be 5 stars. This book is similar in many ways to the awesome books of Enchanting Forest series (Patricia Wrede), Howl's Moving Castle (Diana Wynne J) and The Princess Curse (Merrie Haskell): lovely characters, a weird hero, magic, fantastic plot and setting.

At the beginning I imagined that Kate was around 12 years old and Emily, her little sister, around 10. It never says how old are the girls when they become orphans and come to live with their aunts. Only when one of the aunts says Kate is old enough to have a baby is when the doubts are cleared.

I loved when Kate and Emily get to know Marak. Kate senses he is dangerous, but Emily instantly likes him, even if it is completely dark and they cannot see his face (he is hidden under a dark hood). And when Kate realizes that Marak is actually the goblin king and he looks hideous, she is scared but eventually, she is more annoyed with him than scared.

Marak is a sweetheart. This is really a Beauty and the Beast kind of retelling, only that Marak is ugly because he was born that way, not because of a curse. Kate is beyond beautiful and Marak is a monster. An actual monster: gray skin, long wild hair, both eyes with different colors, a 6-fingers hand, etc. It was hard to imagine Marak as such horrible goblin, because he was kind, good-humored, smart and because he liked to tease Kate, which eventually make her love him. He was so patient and nice and powerful. I love Kate bickering with Marak; she was never afraid, because honestly, why would she? She was never in danger in his company.

The background characters were also great. First is Emily, who immediately likes Marak and the world of goblin, despite their monstrous looks. And in spite of Marak trying to kidnap Kate to make her his bride. Then we have Seylin, a goblin-elf who can turn into a cat. A cat! How awesome is that? And how magical! I love when I find cats and/or dragons with unique personalities in my fantasy books. Last, there is Charm, a snake who protects the Goblin First Wife. It way of defense is awesome! I want a Charm too in my life... Also, Agatha, the old dwarf (?), the doggies, the other goblins...

I can't say if I liked the writing of this author. I did not read the book, I lived it. I was in the story. I could not put it down (although I had to when it was 2am already). I fell in love with Marak and Seylin and Charm and the other goblins. I felt that the goblin's world was eerie and dark and would not want to be Kate in that first day (although the goblins, while looking awful and ugly, were the nicest creatures). That scene with their ward and Marak... also creepy. The wedding ceremony... very dark. Catspaw... a sweetheart like his father!

The book is very short, but nothing is rush and there is always something going on. I enjoyed every page of this wonderful book, and I certainly recommend it to people who likes to read fantasy.