Friday, April 16, 2004

The Hollow Kingdom

Dunkle, Clare B. 2003. THE HOLLOW KINGDOM. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC. ISBN 0805073906 [Suggested Grade Levels 7 and Up]

This story begins with a historical fiction premise: the setting is 19th century England, and orphan sisters Kate and Emily are moving to stay with their great-aunts and near their guardian cousin Hugh at Hallow Hill, the family estate. Very quickly they realize that something is out of place: Kate especially has the feeling of being watched and senses that something isn’t right. Soon she encounters Marak, the Goblin King; it is here that the story begins to take a more fantastic turn. She discovers that Marak’s purpose is to steal a bride per goblin tradition and sire an heir to the goblin kingdom. Kate is scared and disgusted by this abnormal creature, but through him she learns about various other races (goblins, dwarves, elves) and discovers that she is half elf herself.

Kate’s opinion of Marak begins to shift when events with her guardian Hugh unfold. Hugh thinks that Kate is going insane and kidnaps her sister Emily, but Marak and his cronies use sympathetic magic to help her, after Kate promises herself in marriage to him.
From this point the story turns from semi-reality to utter fantasy as Kate goes to live in the goblin realm under the hill. The marriage ceremony is described in full detail, as is the world of the goblins; readers can easily envision this created kingdom. It takes some adjustment for Kate to get used to her new life; she has nightmares in the beginning, which Marak soothes, making Kate warm to him more.

Kate eventually returns the favor for Marak’s help with Emily by saving him and his minions from a spirit-stealing sorcerer who tries to turn Marak against her. Kate breaks the sorcerer’s spell by telling Marak that she’s to bear his heir. At the end of the story she bears the future goblin king, and the stage is set for a future story of this amazing world.

This book contains elements of both historical fiction and fantasy. Readers will love learning more about the fascinating world under the hill, and about the different races of fantasy characters. The author does a fine job of differentiating the traits, strengths and weaknesses of each of the magical races, so it isn’t hard for readers (even those not overly familiar with fantasy writing) to see the differences and the purposes of each.

Children could create their own race of fantasy characters, assigning traits, customs and characteristics unique to them. Illustrations of their world or kingdom could supplement the written descriptions.

Other books containing elements of magic and/or fantasy races
Jones, Diana Wynne. The Merlin Conspiracy. ISBN 0060523182
Pattou, Edith. East. ISBN 0152045635
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. ISBN 0261103288
By Shannon McGregor

No comments: