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Tree fairy

The Hollow Kingdom

In the mood for something completely different I took The Hollow Kingdom, by Clare B. Dunkle, off my tbr mountain. I'm not even sure what it was doing there, where I saw it recced, or why I bought it, but it's new so I must have got it from Amazon - but some time ago now. One of those inspired buys I suspect.


The story concerns two sisters, Kate and Emily. We're not told their precise ages but Kate is around 17 or 18 and Emily, perhaps 12 or 13. They go to live with a reclusive uncle when their father dies. The uncle lives in a forested region beside a lake and the whole place has an enchanted feel to it. Lost, one night, the girls encounter what they think is a band of gypsies, except that they're not. Their leader helps them home but doesn't show his face. He makes it clear though that Kate and he have a future together. When Kate eventually sees his face she is horrified to find that he is in fact a goblin, but not just any goblin, he is the king of the ones who live under the lake. Even worse he makes it clear that he plans to make her his wife and that she will live with him underground and never see the light of day again.

It's rather strange I think how some books completely hit the spot. Was I in the mood for this Beauty and the Beast type story or does it just happen to be the kind of thing I enjoy - so I was going to like it regardless of when I read the thing? Being a 'Young Adult' fantasy book it's not explicit in any way but it is romantic and sometimes I feel that, for someone who enjoys romantic fiction, I just don't read enough of it. The writing is engaging, pacey and atmospheric. The main characters, Kate and the Goblin king, Marak, are written sympathetically and with humour. The author doesn't try to turn Marak into a pretty boy or handsome hero, he's ugly and she makes no bones about it. But it works! Not only that, it's a delightful read, a page turner in fact; I devoured it in a couple of days. There are two sequels, book 2 is Close Kin and book 3, The Coils of the Snake, referring I think (hope) to the rather humorous charm in the form of a snake that protects all Goblin King wives from danger whilst quoting statistics about the other 167 wives he has protected. I've ordered both books from Amazon and hope they don't take too long to arrive!


It sounds like an inside out version of The Princess and the Goblins and both are perfectly valid. I'll keep a look out for it.

I do wish there were a Beauty and the Beast type story with the girl as the beast, and a man who loved her despite her appearance.
Well, no, it's really not that at all, but have you read The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown?
have you read The Unlikely Ones by Mary Brown?

No, but having checked Fantastic Fiction I've added it to my 'keep an eye out for' list. You are very bad for my tbr mountain...
"I do wish there were a Beauty and the Beast type story with the girl as the beast, and a man who loved her despite her appearance."

Back in the days of the American TV show Beauty and the Beast, part of the lore of the show was that this very idea was considered briefly: to have the strange, "ugly" creature be a female, and the man be the Beauty.

And the men involved in writing the show thought about it and decided, "Nah... Nobody would believe that!"

SIGH Men are so shallow about looks. Some of them are loyal, and will stand by their lady-love when her looks desert her (which, sooner or later, always happens), but there has to be some physical attraction there to begin with, or the deep love will never take root.

Unless, y'know, she has a lot of money... That creates a beauty all its own, be the person male or female, and ever so ugly!
Men are so shallow about looks.

They certainly are. I'm assuming there's a biological reason for this that goes back to the caveman but wouldn't it be nice if that could change now that we don't live in caves or run around in bear skins?

Oh yes, money makes all the difference. Which is also very sad.
You know, I've just remembered a sort of reverse Beauty and the Beast. I can't recall the real name of the story, but I always think of it as "The Eight-cow Wife."

The story is set in Polynesia; the woman in question is sharp-featured, because she is painfully thin, and she's shy and inept. Her work is slipshod, she has no social graces, and nobody wants to marry her - except one man. The custom in their culture is to pay for the privilege of marrying a woman, by giving her father a number of cows to help offset the loss of her usefulness to her family. The man who wants to marry her is known as a sharp trader, and everybody is shocked at his choice of wife; they just know he's making a bad deal, even though he's unlikely to give her father more than one sickly, elderly cow for a wife that pathetic, but he surprises them: her father asks (not at all hopefully) for two cows, and her suitor shakes his head: "That's a lot of cows," he says, "but not enough for her. I will give you no less than eight cows!"

After the couple have been married for a few months, the wife is transformed: she's radiant, and self-confident, all because the man who had loved her since they were children insisted on showing the whole community how much she meant to him, by paying the most anyone had ever paid for the privilege of marrying a woman: eight cows.

Oh, heck. I'm such a sap... this story always makes me cry... (Probably because I know reality just ain't that way, but it would be so lovely if it were true.)
If you're a sap then so am I because I too like the sound of this story and wish RL was like that. It certainly *ought* to be!
Well, there's Jane Eyre, but though she was plain, he was described as uglier from what I remember, so it doesn't really count I guess. But at least Jane Eyre isn't beautiful. I get so tired of beautiful women in stories, especially when that seems to be their only salient characteristic.

I wrote an epic story once about an ugly girl and a beautiful boy who fall in love but I'm a crap writer so it'll never be published.
I think the 'beautiful woman' syndrome is probably the reason I gave up reading romantic fiction for the most part. Being middle-aged it's hard to identify. Trouble is, women in their fifties in literature seem to be mostly caricatures or mumsy. I find the whole thing most discouraging.
I think that's one of the reasons why I liked "The Hours" - Clarissa isn't ugly, but she's in her fifites, and - despite being created by a male author, lol - she's neither a caricature nor mumsy. She feels real, to me.
I shall have to see if I can grab The Hours from the library. There's a film too I believe.
You're right; there are very few female heroines in books who are middle-aged or older. I'll be getting into that area myself soon. I still enjoy reading about younger people, since I remember being that age, but it'll be nice if I can find some folks my own age to read about too. There's always Mma Ramotswe, who is middle-aged and fat, if still described as beautiful. Somehow, though, a beautiful fat women doesn't count to me as part of the ubiquitous beautiful woman annoyance.

Marge Piercy tends to write women of varying ages. There's one called Three Women in which the women are a grandmother, mother, and daughter, and the story is told from the points of view of all of them. However, it's not a sweeping romance or anything.
I forgot Mma Ramotswe... so unusual in that she's written by a man who seems to understand the failings of his own sex. And I love the fact that she's 'traditionally' built. LOL. But we need more like her...
Interesting point... why do I feel it to be a long way off? I think because most of us ladies know what men are like and the idea of them choosing a plain girl over pretty ones is just about impossible. In a book or film anyway. In RL I think the beautiful people marry each other and the ordinary marry the ordinary. It seems there's a big difference between what people want to see in a book or a movie and RL.
I do remember once seeing a couple on a train - the girl wasn't 'ugly' (because that's a word I dislike, and what is 'ugly' anyway?), but she was quite odd-looking and certainly not conventionally pretty, and her boyfriend was (by conventional standards) drop-dead gorgeous! But in general (argh, generalising! I know I shouldn't do it...) I do think women are more prepared to put up with less-than-perfect looks in their partners than men are.
I do think women are more prepared to put up with less-than-perfect looks in their partners than men are.

My thoughts exactly. :-)