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Sunday, July 17, 2016

"The Goblin's Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice" by Andrew S. Chilton (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

OVERVIEW: 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.

FORMAT: Goblin's Puzzle is a MG humorous adventure fantasy novel. It stands at 279 pages and was published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on January 19, 2016.

ANALYSIS: Written in a style that is very similar to Lemony Snicket, The Goblin's Puzzle tells the tale of a slave with no name who has been inadvertently finds himself in a bit of a mess. The young slave has always been a good slave, but now he is faced with the difficult task of having to decide what to do after the son of his master is brutally murdered - a murder which could be pinned on the young slave.

While deciding what to do with his life, the young slave meets a tricky goblin. The goblin may hold the answers to who the young slave boy is and he even hints that the young slave may have a destiny far greater than he could ever imagine.

In addition to the tale of the young slave boy and the goblin, The Goblin's Puzzle also follows the story of a young village girl who is faced with a case of mistaken identity and Princess Alice who is the target of a potential kidnapping plot. Somehow the two girls' story intertwines with the young slave boy's story and it makes for an adventurous fantasy novel.  

The Goblin's Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice is a fun, witty children's adventure fantasy novel that will certainly appeal to the older, more mature audience (the adults who have a heart of a child). It isn't laugh out loud funny, but there is a slight humor to the novel that makes it exciting and something that adults will certainly enjoy.

While the story has a fairly run-of-the-mill fantasy plot, it is the way it is told that makes it fun and exciting. Each and every character is developed, which is amazing because the novel isn't really that long. Readers are given a sense that they have known the characters for a while and are extremely familiar to them.

There are some twists and turns and puzzle-like themes throughout the novel, but all play a role in the plot. They aren't thrown out there to make the book more confusing or 'fun'. It fits in nicely with the flow of the novel.

That being said there are some aspects of Goblin's Puzzle that should be noted. First, the murder of the master's son. It was a bit graphic, which could be difficult for younger readers who may be sensitive to such things. The book is middle grade and while death/murder isn't anything new, the description of the murder was fairly detailed which might be unexpected to some readers.

The second aspect that should be noted is the focus on politics and religion. These aspects don't play a huge role in the story, but the book spends a lot of time on them. A younger reader or someone looking for action and adventure will find this information tedious and boring. On the other hand, the older reader will certainly appreciate the hat tip and some of the side remarks about religion and politics.

The focus on politics and religion isn't bad, but it does slow the story down a bit. It is information that the adult audience would like, but that I'm not 100% certain the younger target audience would really even care about.

Another, more personal, problem with Goblin's Puzzle was the way I felt at the end. The entire book was so solid until the end. The last part of the book just made me feel like I wanted more. There wasn't anything that I can honestly pinpoint (the story was wrapped up and completed) that made me feel this way, but I finished the book and just expected more from the ending.

Overall, Goblin's Puzzle was a fun, quick middle grade novel that has solid writing and is stand alone! There are some aspects that should be considered if you are considering it for a younger middle grade audience, but I think older MG audiences and adults will certainly like the story, especially if you are craving something that is a little more than your average 'fluff' fantasy quest novel.



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