Saturday 11 May 2013


Goblins by Philip Reeve (Scholastic UK)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-1-407115-27-6
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Skarper lives in the spookily named Blackspike Tower with his ‘batch brothers’ under the watchful eye of Old Breslaw and King Knobbler - a goblin known as much for his legendary sword Mr Chop-U-Up as for his ruthless leadership. The Blackspike Boys are the fiercest goblins in Clovenstone but Skarper is different. He is not very interested in fighting and is much cleverer than all the other goblins put together.

As a result he views Clovenstone from a different perspective - from above, in fact, as he hurtles to his death after being catapulted from the top of the tower by the other goblins. But it is this event which leads to the many adventures that follow.

Goblins is a fairytale with a difference. The story mixes characters from fairytales, from myths, and from the imagination. Giants, sorcerers, cloud maidens, mean mermaids, twiglings, a rather nasty troll, slimy sinister boglins and the shadowy Dragonbone men stride through the story along with Skarper, the goblins and a couple of softlings; firstly a would-be-hero who tries to be brave and the other, a middle-aged princess who does not wish to be rescued.

The flowery language used fits the feel of the tale perfectly. On his long fall Skarper sees that ‘gargoyles lurk in the ivy like lice in beggars’ hair’. This sets the tone of the dark tower from the first page, and welcomes the fact that ‘old magic lingers still’ and cloaks the story throughout. Occasionally the mention of a Rolls Royce or other modern items in the midst of an old world filled with kings, dragons and cheesewrights pulled me out of the story, but this was rare.

This funny, rollicking tale of danger and heroic deeds will be speedily devoured by middle grade readers (8+) and lovers of fairytale and adventure. The bright green pages and cover are striking, and the black and white pictures of goblin heads, claws and tails dotted throughout the margins are a great touch. For map lovers there is a fabulous map of Clovenstone, the keep and the surrounding countryside - all the way to the Nibbled Coast.

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