by Kersten Hamilton
Release Date: October 2010
Synopsis (from Amazon.ca):
Teagan Wylltson’s best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures–goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty–are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn’t worried. Her life isn’t in danger. In fact, it’s perfect. She’s on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She’s focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems.
Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn’s a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he’s crazy or he’s been haunting Abby’s dreams, because he’s talking about goblins, too…and about being The Mac Cumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby’s right. The goblins are coming.
I wanted to love this book… I mean really love it. I thought a book about goblins sounded unique, and might present a fascinating, new spin on things…
Turns out that goblins are just fey by a different name. Turns out the author relies very heavily on exposition (let’s call it what it is: infodump) in the first section of the novel, which nearly caused me to walk away from it.
Now, it’s not all bad. In fact, once the second half of the book begins — three months after the first half — the action and characterization pick up in a significant way, and the story pulls you in because Things Are Happening. But by this point, we’ve lost the ability to make a meaningful connection to the main character. It doesn’t help that the tragedy at the end of part one is glossed over, with part two picking up months afterward, because that means we lose that connection with character and story that comes through a tragic event.
There are also little things that bothered me about the story: Why do we spend so much time with Teagan at the chimp enclosure where she works? She’s going to need sign language later, yes, so it’s important that we know that, but the time spent here is disproportionate to the information’s role in the rest of the book. I also wasn’t overly fond of Teagan’s best friend Abby, who seemed to be nothing more than a character of convenience. She’s never in any real danger, and all her scenes could have been filled with walk-on characters instead. Also, she spends far too much time in ‘disbelief’ of what’s happening, considering she was the one who had the prophetic dreams about Teagan being in danger in the first place!
The dialogue also becomes awkward at times, and the author seemed to overuse dialogue rather than allow much real characterization (or, as I’ve said, emotional connection to the story) to develop. Teagan, unfortunately, was the blandest of all, and she seems overshadowed by the other characters in the second half of the book — she’s just along for the ride, while everyone else has cool powers or abilities that actually solve their problems. Remind me why she’s the main character again?
All told, the story itself is decent, and the continuing action in the second half of the novel was what kept me reading. I liked Hamilton’s dedication to Irish mythology and, for the most part, her use of the correct types of Irish fey (uh, I mean goblins) since there are notable differences between the fey of England, Ireland, Scotland, and so on. For that reason, I’d recommend the book if you like books about fey or Irish mythology, but it’s not going to be a great read for someone who needs solid characterization to get into the story. That said, I did read it in one sitting (after getting through the first section), so it was entertaining enough to hold my interest all the way through!
I also really liked that the romance didn’t dominate the story, and — believe it or not — seemed more realistic than a lot of romance in YA. In this case, it started with a significant attraction and then cooled off a bit as they got to know each other… rather well done, I thought.
On the whole, I’d say I liked it. Not loved, as I’d hoped, but liked enough to read the next one if it happened to wander across my path someday.
Final Note: This review may come off as negative, but I hope it doesn’t discourage you from reading the book if you’re interested in it! I did enjoy it… it just had a few bumps and flaws along the way.
About the Author
Kersten Hamilton is the author of several picture books and many middle grade novels. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and this is her first novel for young adults. Visit her website at www.kerstenhamilton.com. <—Visit her website! She has a really cute bio.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free of charge from NetGalley and Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt, in exchange for a fair and honest review.