The Hollow Kingdom
Clare B. Dunkle
Newly orphaned Kate Winslow and her younger sister Emily have been sent to live with their guardian at the old family estate of Hallow Hill. Kate soon finds, however, that the local legends of goblins are terrifyingly real. By ancient tradition, the goblin king always kidnaps his wife; and Marak, the latest king, has chosen her.
The Hollow Kingdom is a fast, lively read that is highly enjoyable. Kate is a smart, resourceful heroine, while Marak is a thoroughly charming villain. The action is fast and the humor well-integrated. The book suffers, however, from one major flaw. For the first two-thirds of the book, Kate spends all her wits and energy trying to escape Marak’s grasp. Finally she is forced to marry him–and then wham! It’s six months later and they’re in love, and the tension of the book has shifted to an outside threat. I was left bewildered and wondering why I was supposed to hope that Kate would save Marak when, ten pages earlier, she’d been doing everything she could to avoid him. Granted, given how Marak was presented, it was obvious from the get-go that they would end up married–but I wanted to see how they came to love each other, not just be told that they had.
This flaw in the writing, however, also leads to a flaw in the morality, which otherwise is pretty good. (Kate even makes reference at one point to vengeance belonging to God alone.) Marak is aware of what Kate suffers by being locked away in the goblin kingdom, and after their marriage, he often tries to “comfort” her; but he is never sorry for his actions in the slightest. At one point he even says, “It’s not my problem. . . . Kate’s suffering is the price paid for the goblin race to continue.” Frankly, I was apalled at the fact that Kate is supposed to love someone who capable of treating her so callously, and that Marak is portrayed as having “loved” her from the start. Dunkle does make a point of emphasizing that Kate isn’t actually kidnapped; but (without spoiling too much) she still marries Marak under definitely coercive circumstances. And despite how squeaky-clean Dunkle keeps the narrative (you never hear about people doing anything more than kissing), I couldn’t help thinking that forced marriage equals forced sex equals rape.
That said, I do think that this problem probably arises more from the author not having thought through the issues than any actual intent to preach a message of “girls like being abducted!” So while I definitely can’t rate it as completely wholesome, I can’t really call it depraved, either. On a content level, it’s extremely clean, except for a few instances of magic used for nasty and rather grotesque ends.