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Review: The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell (Goblin Wood #1)

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The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell // VBC reviewThe Goblin Wood (Goblin Wood #1)
Hilari Bell
Published: April 15, 2003 (Harper Collins)
Purchase at: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: Purchased

Reviewed by: Amber

Rating (out of 5):  4.5 stars

The Decree of Bright Magic has just been passed, banning all magic that has not been gifted by the Seven Bright Gods. Now the Lesser Minions—anyone who practices magic not related to the churches—are being hunted. When Mekenna, a young hedgewitch and Lesser Minion, loses her mother to the purge, she finds herself helping goblins protect the north woods, where priests once tried to lock them away.

Meanwhile, barbarians are attacking the Southlands, and their numbers grow by the year. Soon the barbarians will claim the Southlands and the rest of the Realm will fall shortly after. It’s up to Tobin, a knight who has just lost everything, to rid the northern wood of the mischievous goblins and their mistress so the people of the Realm can relocate before the Barbarians slaughter them all.

Goblin Wood started out strong. I bonded with Mekenna immediately as she relived the recent death of her mother. As Mekenna plotted her revenge on the villagers who turned on her, it was clear that she is strong-willed and spirited. It’s not surprising she teams up with Cogswhallop to defend the goblin race.

A few years down the road, Tobin is introduced as an honorable knight with a clear idea of right and wrong. Unfortunately, his brother’s shenanigans wind up costing Tobin his knighthood. I had to admire Tobin for taking the fall for his brother when so much was on the line. His development was fun to watch as he got to know the goblins and see that they were an intelligent people, rather than the vermin the churches would have people believe. It immediately blurred his perception of the world, giving him a better grasp of the gray areas of life.

Mekenna’s development did feel a little stunted as she never seemed to grow past her idea that almost all humans were terrible people, wishing to destroy the Lesser Minions. Her situation is a gray area that Mekenna refuses to open her eyes to. Even as she learns the reason behind the humans’ invasion of Goblin Wood, she still has no sympathy.

While there wasn’t exactly room for romance in the novel, there were definitely developing feelings between Tobin and Mekenna, even if they wouldn’t acknowledge them. I could appreciate how Tobin began to see Mekenna as a woman with a strong belief in her convictions and how Mekenna learned that Tobin was kindhearted, reversing the idea each had of the other. I’m eager to see what the next book brings for Tobin and Mekenna’s relationship.

The world itself was developed well. Bell put a lot of thought into the history and magic of the Realm. It’s captivating as she describes the different factions of magic and religion. The only thing that bothered me was how small the place seemed. She only really mentions the Realm, north woods and the wasteland of the barbarians, but nothing of the rest of the world. Bell is clearly gifted with the talent of world building; I just wish she had more opportunity to expand.

The ending was bittersweet and a good lesson in the casualties of war. Things came together in the end, but it was emotionally straining to discover the cost of it. Goblin Wood is one of my favorite novels of all time and the story never gets old. I’m excited to continue the series.

Sexual Content: None

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