Ghoulish Song is a companion book to Goblin Secrets, the national book award winning story by Minnesota author, William Alexander. (Read my review of Goblin Secrets.)
This is not a “Part 2” to Goblin Secrets, as some reviewers are saying. (Since William Alexander told me this himself, I’m inclined to believe him.) Ghoulish Song is a “companion” to Goblin Secrets. Both books are set in the same world at the same time. The city of Zombay, its magic, witches, Goblin-acting-troops, squidskin coats, and clockwork guards are revealed through both novels. The two books can be read in either order, and you can read either story without reading the other, but reading them both offers synergy and depth to the stories.
William Alexander’s writing is “Neil Gaiman Good” which is about the highest praise I can give to writing. The words on the page are simply a pleasure to read. Pacing never lags, and the story is fantasy with a refreshing splash of steampunk. I praised William before for balancing his fantasy with realism, and once again, he delivers.
Ghoulish Song is aimed at younger-than-young-adult markets, and some have criticized the story as being too dark for younger readers. Seriously, have you even heard of the Brothers Grimm? But then again, I was reading stuff at age ten that might give some adults nightmares, so I’m probably not the best judge about such things. I can say that Ghoulish Song will live on the shelf quite happily alongside The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, Clockwork Angels, and yes, Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
The story focuses on the protagonist Kaile, who receives a flute made of bone from a Goblin acting troupe. Playing the flute separates Kaile’s shadow from her body, which unfortunately in Zombay, is a sign that you are dead. To me, the plot of Kaile resolving this strange symptom gets overshadowed (pardon the pun) by her explorations in the fascinating city of Zombay. Not a bad thing, because the world and the writing are rich and intriguing. I found myself thinking, “Oh, why are we here again, Kaile? Sorry my dear, I was miles away, just wondering what dried, salted dustfish tastes like. Yes, yes, please do continue on…”
I found Kaile to be just the right mixture of likable, yet brash. I wanted to feel sorry for her, but she continued to make really bad choices. I expect her to say, “The clockwork guard will be inspecting our shop tomorrow? Bummer. Hey, how about I invite in a goblin acting troupe to perform even though I know they don’t get along with the guards?” Great for the story, but bad for Kaile, who will definitely grow up to be one of those teens in a slasher film: “There’s a psycho-axe-murderer here in the woods? Bummer. Hey, let’s split up and go skinny dipping!”
The ending feels Disney-ish because it is, and that’s OK, since this is a kid’s book. In fact, if Ghoulish Song had a singular, more pronounced antagonist, it would make a great Disney movie.
Speaking of antagonist, I was expecting a giant-claw thing to reach for our heroine at some point in the story, as is shown on the book cover. This never happens. Aside from that, the cover art is well done and very high quality.
For those interested in the audiobook version, William Alexander narrates it himself, and after hearing him read on more than one occasion, I can tell you his acting experience makes listening to him a treat. You can watch William give a reading of his own work on my youtube page.
Keep your eyes open for a third book in this world coming soon: an actual sequel to both Goblin Secrets and Ghoulish Song.
Twitter Review of Ghoulish Song
Ghoulish Song by Will Alexander is quality YA literature for all ages. You’ll love the writing and the interesting world.[Click to Tweet This!]
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