Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


*****Close Kin

The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, Book II

by Clare B. Dunkle

Reviewed October 26, 2004.
Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2004.  216 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF DUN).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004,#7, Fantasy for Young Adults

I was completely delighted to learn that TheHollow Kingdom is the first book of a trilogy.  Usually Iread fiction at night, before I go to sleep.  With both TheHollow Kingdom and its sequel, Close Kin, I didn’t getanything done the next morning until I had finished the book. They aren’t the sort of books I can walk away from and forget about.

Some of my review that follows might give away something about TheHollow Kingdom.  If you haven’t read that book yet, stopreading this and go find it!  It’s definitely a book thatshouldn’t be missed, and this isn’t a series where you can skip thefirst book and still enjoy the rest as fully.

Close Kin tells us more about the fascinating history ofgoblins and elves.  We learn more about Emily and Seylin, whom wewere sure were destined for each other when reading the firstbook.  However, when Seylin tries to propose to Emily, she doesn’trealize what he’s saying and she says some harsh things.  Hedecides to go on aquest to find the elves, with whom he feels he will truly belong. Of course, once he’s gone, Emily realizes what she’s missing and findsareason to leave the kingdom and go find him.

The two quests end up revealing much about the history of the elves andtheir dealings with goblins.  Clare Dunkle explores theramifications of the fascinating world she has created.  Whatwould happen to apeople if they needed to survive, but the women always died inchildbirth?  Emily and Seylin’s story is the frame, but the heartof the book is inthe tragic plight of Sable, one of the last of the elves.  As in TheHollow Kingdom, there’s another look at cross-culturalrelationships and how different peoples see each other.

I still thought that the viewpoint in this book jumped around a littletoo quickly in a few spots.  However, I have to admit that CloseKin needs more than one viewpoint.  It’s a much bigger storythan any one person.  It’s the story of the elves and their tragicdownfall.  The author manages to frame that grand story within thestory of Emilyand Seylin, and she does a magnificent job.

Let me add that this is only a minor quibble, that overall I loved thebook.  I love this world that Clare Dunkle has created, wheresometimes the ugly ones are the ones with compassion, and the ones whovalue beauty act in ways that are horribly ugly.

I also liked the elvish math which she briefly mentions.  I foundit amusing that goblins declared it useless.  Those who don’tunderstand a branch of mathematics usually do find it useless. I’ll betthat elvish math helped the elves to track the constellations andplanets as they move across the sky, which were apparently extremelyimportant for their spells.  You see, the author knows this worldso well, she’s even figured out how their math would work!  Iloved exploring it with her.

You can see that Close Kin deeply engaged my imagination.  Thehistory of the elves and goblins and the ramifications of their ways oflife completely captivated my thinking, and the story of Sablecompletely captured my heart.

These are truly wonderful books.  I can’t wait to read the nextone!  Highly recommended for both teens and adults—anyone wholikes a good story.  You’ll catch yourself thinking about themlong after closing the books.

Reviews of other books by Clare B. Dunkle:
The Hollow Kingdom (Book 1)
In the Coils of the Snake (Book3)
By These Ten Bones
The Sky Inside
The House of Dead Maids
Hope and Other Luxuries
Elena Vanishing

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  Allrights reserved.

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