Monday, September 5, 2016

The Goblin's Puzzle by Andrew S. Chilton, 2016

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Brimming with dragons, goblins, and logic puzzles, this middle-grade fantasy adventure is perfect for readers who enjoyed The Princess Bride or Rump.
THE BOY is a nameless slave on a mission to uncover his true destiny.
THE GOBLIN holds all the answers, but he’s too tricky to be trusted.
PLAIN ALICE is a bookish peasant girl carried off by a confused dragon.
And PRINCESS ALICE is the lucky girl who wasn’t kidnapped.
All four are tangled up in a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, and together they must face kind monsters, a cruel magician, and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. They’re a ragtag bunch, but with strength, courage, and plenty of deductive reasoning, they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle.

(279 pages)

I wasn't exactly sure what this book would be like, but I knew that I wanted to read it. There was no way, whatever way it wound up leaning tone- and theme-wise, that I couldn't like a book with such a whimsical list of main characters.

And I was right. It's a very good book, very original and interesting. At the same time, though, it wasn't quite as original and interesting as it could have been. I just get the feeling that Chilton could have run with some of the plot potentials and the themes more than he could have. Maybe it's just the audience, though - I guess middle grade novels aren't meant to delve as deep as I sometimes would like them to.

Anyway, the characters are interesting. I don't think there's a single character, other than one or two bad guys, who actually conform to all of their personality stereotypes. Both Alices are intelligent, engaging people to read; the boy is nice (if occasionally annoyingly passive about his future - though that gets better as the book goes on), and I actually really liked the goblin, too. Plain Alice is probably my favorite main character, but I enjoyed reading the snippets we get about Princess Alice's father; he seems like a really funny, nice guy.

To be perfectly honest, I don't know how well I'll remember The Goblin's Puzzle a year from now. I enjoyed reading it, but it's not as much of a standout as it could have been. Perhaps I'll re-read it someday if I forget enough of the plot details, but it'll never be one of those books I read again just to savor. Definitely read it if you think it looks interesting, though, and be sure to tell me in the comments section what you think!

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