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Goblin Secrets by [Alexander, William]
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Goblin Secrets Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


* "Rownie’s search for his brother turns into an unlikely heroic quest. . . . Though highly textured, it’s tightly woven and reassuringly seamless. The result is wryly humorous and bearably yet excitingly menacing: Even while much is left unexplained, Rownie’s triumph is both gripping and tantalizing."--Kirkus Reviews, *STAR

"Alexander has an intriguing central theme, in which masks and theater create actual magic . . . The result is a (sometimes gruesome) fantasy stuffed with interesting ideas."--Publishers Weekly

"The appeal here lies in Alexander’s careful construction of a distinctive world: touches of steampunk can be found in Graba’s geared-up legs and the Mayor’s automaton guards while a more ancient, primal magic seems to guide the goblins and their powerful brand of storytelling. . . . The bittersweet ending remains true to the story’s overall dreamy, melancholic tone."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The story weaves a many-webbed tale, rich in imagination with a fairy-tale feel."--School Library Journal

"The mythic resonance in Alexander's storytelling, coupled with his smart, graceful writing, make this novel feel both pleasantly old and thoroughly new." - Locus Magazine

"William Alexander organizes his atmospheric first novel into acts and scenes, rather than chapters, and he couches it in the beautifully elliptical language of the old fairy tales." (Washington Post)

About the Author

William Alexander won the National Book Award for his debut novel, Goblin Secrets, and won the Earphones Award for his narration of the audiobook. His other novels include Ghoulish Song, Ambassador, and Nomad. William studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College, English at the University of Vermont, and creative writing at the Clarion workshop. He teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Like the protagonist of Nomad and Ambassador, William is the son of a Latino immigrant to the US. Visit him online at and, and on Twitter via @WillieAlex.

Product Details

  • File Size: 5825 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books; Reprint edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Publication Date: March 6, 2012
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0055OGG90
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,026 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Meisner on March 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A beautifully-written children's book that breaks the mold. I've never read anything quite like it. The book gently submerges the reader into a mysterious world of strange and wholly original magic, where masks have power and sometimes, through the art of performance, you may discover hidden truths about the world, and yourself.

During a brunch with friends, my husband picked up this book out of curiosity, casually flipped it open to the first page, and that was the last we saw of him for the rest of the morning -- he was too busy reading! He loved it, and we brought it home to give to our fifth grade son.

Evocative and poetic: this really is a special book. Highly recommended for kids (or the rest of us) who love anything to do with theater, magic, excitement, goblins, masks, or beautiful writing. A haunting story that sparks the imagination like those favorite fantasy novels you loved as a kid. This is the good stuff.
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Format: Hardcover
If Neil Gaiman and Charles Dickens were to sit down at a pub, somewhere near where the Olde London Bridge used to span the Thames, and trade ideas for a story, Goblin Secrets may have been their creation. Fortunately, we have a brilliant young new author to thank for devising this compelling new world around the city of Zombay. What I wouldn't give to stroll across the Fiddleway Bridge into the twisted streets and misshapen buildings of The Southside. Alexander's style and exceptional prose draws your imagination into this wonderful world with ease providing a fresh yet subtle new take on magic. It is important that we discover, especially at a young age, that magic is something that is elusive and mysterious, not something that we just casually pull out of thin air on a whim with just a few words and a wave of a wand.

I want to quote a small passage taken from this book that evoked more emotion within me than a book has accomplished in a long long time.

"He felt his anger drain away. He didn't want to let it go. He fought to keep it. Anger kept him moving. It kept him warm. But now words fell out of his mouth like cold pebbles."

The context surrounding this passage lent so much more power to these words, but you'll have to read the book to discover this for yourself.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm reading Goblin Secrets to my nine-year-old and he loves it. So fun to hear my kid burst out laughing at the moments of fun ridiculousness (a refined sense of whimsy in this book). Rownie is a great main character -- curious, open-minded, upbeat, game. The plot is winding and wild, with truly odd moments that continually made my son perk up and listen closely, as opposed to many stories whose rhythms are already predictable to him. (That said, there's good schtick in Goblin Secrets, too).

A very fun story for grown-ups to read out loud.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Literary and what would probably be called "lyrical" tale of orphan Rownie in odd, vaguely olde English "gearworks" town, who is looking for brother Rowan and becomes entranced with goblins who perform in masks. While the writing was interesting to me (as an adult reader), the story never worked for me. Parts are lovely to read, but overall I found the plot is filled with oddities and the orphan names all ran together. There is nothing wrong with the book, and clearly, as it was the National Book Award Young People's Literature winner, there are many people who liked it. It just didn't grab me in any emotional way and I am hard pressed to think of what young reader of my acquaintance I could recommend it to.
About me: I'm a middle school/high school librarian
How I got this book: purchased for the library
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Format: Hardcover
I love it when a book makes me throw out my presuppositions and biases and actually yanks me by the shirt into the story before I know what's happening. So I picked this up after I put my last book down and thought "oh, a goblin book. I really don't like goblins . . . and goblin books tend to be full of comic scenes and gross stuff. Sigh."

It's so nice to be knocked on my proverbial butt for making a judgement based on a title. It restores my faith in books and writing.

Goblin Secrets takes place in the city of Zombay, a place strange and oppressive where masks and plays are not allowed and only goblins may perform. A place where gears and mechanical devices combine with magic and curses and witchery. The orphan Rownie lives in this town, running errands for the woman who cares for him and the odd and end other orphans in her home. Until the day he sees the goblins perform a play, and runs away to join them, hoping to find his lost brother and find out who he is. But other forces are chasing him, and a time is coming soon where Rownie will have to act in order to save the city and discover the person he is meant to be.

William Alexander plunges readers into his magical urbanesque environment with no apologies or explanations. It's a tightly told story with suspense and magic and evocative descriptions. The world building is superbly done, painting a unique picture of this landscape. Unlike some stories that take the grand scale fantasy world and give readers a panoramic view, this story remains seated in one city and the rise and fall of that city and its denizens. I'm not certain if Alexander intends to explore this world further, since this book is a satisfying stand-alone, but I'd be happy to dive in if he so decides.

Just marvelous fun, great imagination and something I wasn't expecting--which will keep me humble!
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