Why I Chose this Book:
If any of you truly know me, you know my undying love for poetry—particularly Victorian poetry. So when I heard about this book being a retelling of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, I was already all over it. I have always struggled with retellings, because most of the time they feel contrived or one-dimensional, but I was so ready to love this book! I really was.
Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.
All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.
But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.
Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world. (Goodreads)
My Bookish Thoughts:
Because my thoughts tend to be a jumbled mess, I will start at the beginning, and tell you that it had the longest exposition I’ve ever read in a YA book. Nothing happened, she established the character within the first chapter and did not need to continue on for the 20%, and finally the goblin king was creepy and super problematic, but sure, by all means, fall in love.
Also, the book was super heavy in sexual metaphor—again, I completely understand why, because Goblin Market was as well; however, without knowing that poem, the reader wouldn’t have understood why there was so much phallic imagery or over sexualization of characters and actions. All of this made the narrative seemed bogged down and too layered, so much so that it affected the clarity of the story.
Jones had a lyrical aspect to her writing that at times I enjoyed, but more often than not, I felt as if it detracted from the clarity of the already muddled and confusing plot. Keep in mind, I’m a slow reader, but even still my comprehension and retention is extremely high, so I don’t think this was a problem for me.
Now let’s go back to the Goblin King… like I said before, he is an extremely problematic character. He is simultaneously the love interest and partially the villain. I’m all for the byronic heroes and antiheroes, but the Goblin King fell into a more sinister category than classical heroes. He was downright a villain—she was wasting away in his home, she was mistreated in various ways, etc. I’m honestly confused as to why he would even be considered the love interest at this point.
All of this might have been overlooked (well, maybe not the problematic issue that is the GOblin King, but I digress) if the character arcs were detailed, well thought out, and cohesive. But they weren’t. Her character arcs were confusing, as were their reactions to situations. They were hot and cold and made very little sense. One minute a character was angry and hurt, and the next they were experiencing euphoric joy. As a reader, I did not understand how the characters got from point A to point B.
I could go on and on about this book and how much I really disliked it, but then this would turn into a rant. So in my humble opinion, I would refrain from buying this book. If you want to check it out, go for it, but go into it with your eyes wide open