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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Olesen

Re-Reading My Favorite Books, starting with: The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell

What would it feel like to read one AMAZING book after another, for an entire year? The books that pull you in, make another world feel real, and fill you with glee, terror, and awe? This year, I have decided to re-read all of my favorite books and tell you about them as I go along.

I will explain the book as well as I can, without going into spoilers and explain why I think it's so amazing. Hopefully, by the end of the year, you will have found at least one new book you want to pick up too! Before each review, I will give a few stats about the book, including the Goodreads rating and my recommended way to read it. The rating is because, although I consider all of these books 5 stars out of 5 stars, they are not going to have a general 5-star score. The point of this is to illustrate how the general population's opinion does not need to reflect your own. You are free to love what you love!

My recommended way to read the book is because I am a strong proponent of audiobooks and ebooks being equally valid ways to consume literature as reading physical books. Many people are too busy to sit down and hold a book for extended periods of time, so listening to an audiobook is a great way to continue reading quickly and easily. E-books also offer accomodations that are severely lacking in printed texts, such as text-enlargement, audio-read-alongs, and fonts such as OpenDyslexic (which makes it significantly easier for dyslexic people to read quickly and is an included Kindle font). My recommendation is intended to highlight where the book is likely to be found more easily or if it has a particularly good narrator.

I don't know how this year will go, but I am so excited to dive back into these stories. Some of them I have read recently, some I have re-read multiple times, and some I haven't picked up for years! There will be no order and no strict genre requirements (though many of the books I've picked so far are young adult, and most are fantasy). I will choose a book based on how I feel in the moment, and hopefully there will be enough variety to make it easy to get a broad spectrum of stories.

It will be interesting for me to see how my interests intersect, and maybe you'll get a better idea of who I am in the process. For I believe that the books one reads in childhood are especially important. Which is why book banning is so horrendous. I couldn't imagine the person I'd be without some of these books. No child should be denied such formative experiences as those offered by the stories that speak to their own heart. We are all unique and need unique stories. When we lose that, something ineffible in our world dies.

With no further ado, let's get into my review of the first book!

The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell

Publication Year: 2003

Minimum Reading Age: 8-12

Average Goodreads Rating: 3.94 stars out of 5

Recommend Way to Read: E-Book or library book

Spoiler-Free Synopsis:

Makenna is a country witch with little power but lots of spite. She watched her mother be murdered by the same people she spent her life helping, and Makenna turned her back on humankind. Instead, she falls in with goblinkind, who impress her with their special sort of morality and honor. Before she knows it, she is leading the goblins in a war against the humans seeking to exterminate witches and goblins alike. In comes a disgraced knight, intent on winning back his honor by defeating the great "sorceress" who controls the goblin hord. Sir Tobin has no idea what he's dealing with, however, and soon finds that neither the sorceress nor the goblins are anything like the stories he's heard about them.

Best Quote:

"I lead these people, honorable knight, because they have no one but me. Because they came to me when the humans slaughtered their families and drove them out. And I’ll keep this place safe for them no matter how much spying and lying and killing it takes."

What I Love Most:

I don't know why I remember this story as being a romance, as there is no kissing and no overt declarations of romance, but still one of my favorite things about this book is the relationship between the two central characters. The chemistry between Makenna and Tobin is electric, and they have that perfect balance where each teaches the other to see themselves and the world in a new way. I also love how the extreme parts of their personalities (anger and hatred for Makenna, and blind obedience and prudishness for Tobin) perfectly complement each other. Reading this book without one of these main characters would be a completely different experience. They are able to have more unlikeable qualities, I think, because the other one balances them out for the reader.

Why You Should Read It:

It seems like there aren't too many young adult books that really take on the moral questions this book tackles. The main character is both good and bad, fighting a moral fight for the goblins and also losing the moral fight for inner goodness. Her counterpart begins his part of the story believing that he is a morally upstanding, honorable person, yet to the perspective of Makenna and her goblin hordes, he is nothing better than a thug attempting to destroy them yet again.

The book makes you root for vengeance and doing what's right, but then it asks you to consider what is "right" and from whose perspective. A story like this one is a balm in today's world, when most people feel upset and angry about the things being done to them or things they only think are being done to them. By the end of The Goblin Wood, you have explored the difference between moral "right" and doing actual good.

What Writers Should Take Away:

A story which functions as children's literature or escapist literature or fantasy does not need to shy away from serious issues like racism, colonialism, the dangers of religious extremism, and the struggle between vengeance and personal healing. This novel is action-packed, full of heart, and fully entertaining while looking at all of the issues above. The messages are woven in with the characters and the plot, just as they would be in real-life struggles. I think it can be scary to deal with heavy topics in escapist writing, but this shows how to authentically expose readers to these ideas in an empathic, immersive way.

Also, a time jump can actually work, if it makes sense why you need it to tell your particular story!

Write on!

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