I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Goblin Market by Diane Zahler. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Goblin Market, Lizzie is a shy girl who prefers to stay home at her family’s farm. Her sister, Minka, on the other hand, is outgoing and eager to go to the market each week. One day, Minka returns home with stories of a new boy in town, and everything about her seems infatuated. Soon enough, she falls ill, and Lizzie suspects her mysterious illness is due to the fruits the boy sells. Before she can prove it, though, Minka vanishes into the woods, where the boy claims he lives. Lizzie has to muster the courage she didn’t know she possesses and find her, save her before she’s ensnared by the boy and his strange fellow creatures forever.
This was a quick read, but a cool fairy tale!
I haven’t read the original poem this book is based on, though I’ve heard of it. So I have no idea how much is taken from that, and how much is new or extrapolated plot. Still, I really liked the bond between Minka and Lizzie. They are very different, but their affection for them is easy to see from the beginning. And Minka’s understanding of Lizzie’s social anxiety is very sweet; she never puts her sister down and takes care to make sure she’s comfortable. The same goes for the girls’ friends Jakob and Stefan, and I enjoyed all their interactions.
The magic is fairly creepy, though not overly graphic (as this is middle grade, after all). I thought the progression of Minka’s enchantment/illness was pretty great, showing how her troubles affected the whole family and especially Lizzie. And overall, the pacing of this story was excellent.
I also thought that Emil, the goblin boy, was pretty cool, in an eerie way. I liked the way he was invisible to everyone except the girls, and his general demeanor was so slyly manipulative. He was probably the most memorable part of the book, as was the scene in his family home. That setting was spooky and exciting, the tension and action wonderful. The culmination of Lizzie’s determination to save her sister occurs in that place, and it was a great scene. The emotions were strong, illustrating the power of platonic/familial love can have.
In the end, Goblin Market was an atmospheric story about the strength of sisterhood in the face of darkness. The magic is cool, the pacing good, and the emotions well-written. It’s an enjoyable story, even without knowing the source material. Kids who like fairy tales will enjoy this!
Goblin Market will be published on August 16th, 2022!