Friday, January 15, 2010

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare Dunkle

Genre: Young adult fantasy
Publisher, Year: Henry Holt, 2003
Other Works: Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, The Sky Inside
Flags: Teen angst
Rating: B or Decent
Challenge: Reliquiae, Countdown, Library
Premise: A beautiful young girl finds herself the object of desire of a grotesque underworld goblin.

I think this is the first book that I’ve read that I could call a true fantasy. (Well, besides the Star Wars book I read.) And I have to say that I quite liked it--although I’ve come to realize that this sort of fantasy may just not be my thing. In other words, I’m not moving on with the rest of the trilogy; however, I think it’s completely conceivable for those whose boats were floated with this tale would be itching for the next installment.

Kate and her little sister Emily, both their parents having passed away, move to the estate that was left in their mother’s name. Their cousin lives there and two of their great aunts nearby. Unfortunately, the cousin is not all too taken with the girls, so they live happily in a small house with their elderly, but feisty, aunts. Kate loves the fresh air, the rolling hills, and the open sky of her new home, and she and her sister spend many hours outdoors, even until nightfall. +/-

One evening, they get lost walking home, and end up running into an unlikely band of people, a gypsy woman and some hooded figures, to ask for help. One of the hooded men, Marak, kindly offers to take the girls home, and although Emily is taken with him right away even without seeing his face, Kate is mistrusting. As they arrive, Kate is finally allowed to see the stranger’s hidden visage, which will set in motion a series of events that she cannot escape.

I really enjoyed the setting Dunkle created of underworld creatures, magical powers, and the mixing of reality and superstition. Although I found a few of the themes unsettling for young women, complete with kidnappings. I guess I would hope for a stronger female heroine, although I think Dunkle did try to alleviate these problems with something different in Kate. She is definitely a live wire, but I suppose I was hoping for a little bit more. I enjoyed the first two sections (Starlight and Lamplight, particularly the latter) much more than the last (Darkness). That last section I felt deviated from the main focus and rhythm of the story, to sort of make it more adventurous and introduce more problems to be solved. I think I would have been satisfied with the first two sections on their own.

Overall, I have to say, even though I’m not terribly interested to move on to the next book in the series, that it definitely had a "can't put down" quality, and it seemed that I couldn't read the book fast enough. I'd say if your tastes run toward fantasy, this one will be a slam dunk for you.

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