Author: William Alexander
Title: Goblin Secrets
Series: Zombay #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Format: Unabridged Audio Cd
Length: 5 hrs
Source: Publisher via Audiobookjukebox
~Website | Create your own mask
In the town of Zombay, there is a witch named Graba who has clockwork chicken legs and moves her house around—much like the fairy tale figure of Baba Yaga. Graba takes in stray children, and Rownie is the youngest boy in her household. Rownie’s only real relative is his older brother Rowan, who is an actor. But acting is outlawed in Zombay, and Rowan has disappeared.
Desperate to find him, Rownie joins up with a troupe of goblins who skirt the law to put on plays. But their plays are not only for entertainment, and the masks they use are for more than make-believe. The goblins also want to find Rowan—because Rowan might be the only person who can save the town from being flooded by a mighty river.
This accessible, atmospheric fantasy takes a gentle look at love, loss, and family while delivering a fast-paced adventure that is sure to satisfy.
Thoughts:Goblin Secrets is a Steampunk novel with a young hero at the heart of the magic and mystery. Rownie, lives in an orphanage owned by a woman named Graba, who calls herself his "grandmother” but really she's a creepy old witch with a bum mechanical leg. She possesses the bodies of the children she cares for, except for Rownie, who for some reason she treats differently because she may think he will lead her to his brother Rowan. So many people are searching for Rowan including his lost little brother, Rownie. One day he learns that a goblin troupe is putting on a play and unable to contain his eagerness and curiosity he finds himself center stage. He overwhelmed and entranced by the thrill of being able to wear a mask, even the possibility of being arrested doesn't deter him. He puts on the mask and from that moment his life takes a turn that he never expected. He becomes more than just Rownie, the little boy whose name is just a shorter version of his brother Rowan's but a hero with a destiny bigger than he thought possible.
This story is interesting but I'm left not being sure as to why the people of Zombay are forbidden to wear masks. Also though it's darker in tone, the villains aren't as terrifying as they originally seem. The characters are okay, I wasn't invested in any particular one, however the change in Rownie is noticeable as he puts on the mask, and he begins to develop a sense of certainty about himself. His brother Rowan is the mystery, why is he so important? The majority of the story revolves around his whereabouts and Rownie's journey with the goblin troupe. I liked the whole idea that the masks are more than just objects but have a life and meaning of their own. The author has essentially created a unique world that may fascinate young readers.
The author narrates the audio translation of this book and sometimes this works because who better to give voice and bring life to a work than the creator. However, for me I just wasn't as engaged in Alexander's portrayal of the characters. Truthfully, he does give variation to the male and female characters, so that it's easy to identify who is speaking but at some point during my listening experience they lost that individuality and I was just confused about what was happening. I listen to children's audios all the time because of all the fun voices and the ability to immerse myself in the world being told, so I was slightly disappointed that I couldn't fully engage in this book. The sound and production for this audio interpretation is well done and clear. Overall, I think this is one I should have read but it would be a good read for children ages 8 and up.