Review: The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringwell

He lifted his face toward the treetops and whistled a few notes of one of the tribe’s songs. None were tunes you’d hear on the radio, though Kit would have sworn one of them had stolen riffs from a Bowie song. No surprise. Goblins stole stuff every chance they got.

The Goblins of Bellwater has all the makings of a great fantasy book: beautiful setting, quriky creatures, and a love story shadowed by a curse. Which was why I was so excited when I was given a copy of my own to read and review.

Set off the Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, the book was inspired by Christina Rosetti’s 1880’s poem Goblin Market. Skye is a young woman on the verge of flying from the coop when she meets a goblin tribe in the woods one winter evening and becomes cursed by the goblin tribe. Magic prevents her from speaking about what happened, and she quickly loses interest in the human world as she spirals into a pit of loneliness and yearning for the forest.  Accidentally, Skye ropes the new boy in town, Grady, into the mess with her, and if they don’t get help soon will both be turned into goblins forever.

Skye’s older sister Livy has no idea what to do with her, and tries to support Skye as best she can. She starts seeing the local mechanic and chainsaw artist Kit, who just so happens to have also inherited the dubious role of  secret liaison for the goblins. Will he and Livy discover what has happened and reverse the curse, before they all run out of time?

As a fantasy the book read more like a YA novel for adults (all the characters were in their twenties). Being a late twenty-something year old I could emphasize with the insecurity of Skye and Grady at the beginning of the novel as they try to start their careers and find a place in the world.  The writing flowed, though some of the dialogue was a bit simple with a lot of back and forth he said she said. The middle of the book got to be a bit laggy, but the action picked back up after a few drudging chapters.I thought Ringle did a great job of drawing it all together at the end, and the second half of the story was much more engaging than the first half.

A strong positive of this book was the sisterly bond between Skye and Livy, and I felt that if that had been the only strong relationship the story would have been fantastic. There was a huge focus on the romantic relationships between the various characters and that ate up a large portion of the book, almost to the extreme. While there were several steamy scenes, it seemed mostly like romance-lite, and I felt that if large chunks had been left out of the story it would have still been fine.

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The goblins, which were the part that initially drew me to the story played a more minor role in the novel, and there wasn’t as much  world building or information on the fae as I would have preferred. They didn’t really come out in force until the ending of the story, more so playing a supporting cast for the humans.

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A minor fact I did admire was the way Ringle blended science and fantasy together. Livy works for the parks in the books and has a more analytical mind, and the two went hand in hand well. I think it helped that Ringle’s husband is an environmental scientist, but it was a beautiful partnership that exuded the importance of having respect for our surroundings and the natural world. Often scientists get a bad rep in fantasy books for being cynical people who either purposefully choose to remain ignorant or are looking to study and dissect the magical world, so as a science major I was happy to see the field portrayed in a positive light and the reminder to love our planet.

Overall I gave the book 3 out of 5 stars, it’s a great story concept, but plenty areas for improvement.

What do you think the most underappreciated fantasy creature is? Do you have any favorite goblin stories to share? Read Goblin Market? Let’s chat !

*Thank you to Net Galley and the author for providing me with a free copy in exchange for a honest review. All opinions stated here are my own

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