Disclaimer: I received a e-ARC of this book from Netgallery for an honest review.
This is a haunting tale of power, of bewitchment, of the capabilities of humans against the supernatural forces of Bellwater. It’s quite possibly the first contemporary book I have read with goblins, and that makes it unique in itself. The novel takes inspiration Christina Rossetti’s eerie, sensual poem, “Goblin Market”, and it definitely translated as a dark and beautiful faerie tale on the pages. Molly Ringle is a fantastic storyteller, and The Goblins of Bellwater delivers on showcasing a town living in unison with magic, fables, and an ancient curse that haunts our four protagonists.
From the very beginning, the atmosphere of the novel is set as Ringle effortlessly slips Washington into the picture. I imagined clouded skies, enchanted forests, things that go bump in the night (it lowkey gave me Twilight vibes, but let’s pretend I didn’t say that). There’s a vibrancy in the setting that will easily immerse you in the story.
Then we meet Kit, forced into a curse following his great grandmother, appeasing the goblins until he slips up and they retaliate, dragging local artist Skye and her environmentalist sister Livy into the story. Upon reading the first few pages, Kit’s encounter with the goblins bore all signs of the classic warnings against dealing with faeries and creatures of the forest. It’s cleverly done and sets the tone for the tale.
From there, it’s a tough balance between bewitched and reality, but through the perspective of Skye – the victim of the goblin curse – you become intrigued as Skye slowly unravels, goblin magic taking over her body. As Livy attempts to bring Skye back to her normal self, Kit’s visiting cousin, Grady, is dragged into the conflict through an enchanted kiss from Skye.
Considering the novel is split between four perspectives, the character development is realistic for such a short novel. I personally enjoyed Livy’s perspective and journey much more than the others; her rational thinking keeps us grounded, and it’s even more compelling to read her side as she develops the courage to overcome an ancient curse she thought only existed in fairy tales.
With that said and done, why didn’t I love it as much as I wanted to?
The pace of the novel started to slow down. Encounters between Grady and Skye were repetitive, and despite their situation, a bit frustrating. While they were cursed, it was ambiguous whether they were both on the same page or were simply rolling with it because, you know, they’re both bewitched. In all honesty, it was an uncomfortable scenario and I felt that some scenes between them didn’t impact their relationship at all. On the other hand, Kit and Livy’s relationship, while much more normal, also stagnated and there didn’t feel like there was much progress in the story until the last third when everything suddenly became more thrilling.
Overall, The Goblins of Bellwater is an enjoyable tale, filled with dark forest encounters, magic, and folklore reminiscent of the classic, gritty feeling of the Grimm Brothers.
A contemporary romance inspired by Christina Rossetti’s eerie, sensual poem, “Goblin Market.” Four neighbors encounter sinister enchantments and a magical path to love in a small, modern-day Puget Sound town, where a fae realm hides in the woods and waters…
Most people have no idea goblins live in the woods around the small town of Bellwater, Washington. But some are about to find out.
Skye, a young barista and artist, falls victim to a goblin curse in the forest one winter night, rendering her depressed and silenced, unable to speak of what happened. Her older sister, Livy, is at wit’s end trying to understand what’s wrong with her. Local mechanic Kit would know, but he doesn’t talk of such things: he’s the human liaison for the goblin tribe, a job he keeps secret and never wanted, thrust on him by an ancient family contract.
Unaware of what’s happened to Skye, Kit starts dating Livy, trying to keep it casual to protect her from the attention of the goblins. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kit, Skye draws his cousin Grady into the spell through an enchanted kiss in the woods, dooming Grady and Skye both to become goblins and disappear from humankind forever.
It’s a midwinter night’s enchantment as Livy, the only one untainted by a spell, sets out to save them on a dangerous magical path of her own.