GRETA AND THE GOBLIN KING by Chloe Jacobs is a book I’ve been looking forward to since I first heard about it, and the anticipation was well-warranted. I sped through it in two sittings; I'm now a third of the way through my first reread.
First, the blub:
While trying to save her brother from the witch three years ago, Greta was thrown into the fire herself, falling through a portal to a dangerous world where humans are the enemy, and every ogre, goblin, and ghoul has a dark side that comes out with the full moon. To survive, 17-year-old Greta has hidden her humanity and taken the job of bounty hunter—and she’s good at what she does. So good, she’s caught the attention of Mylena’s young Goblin King, the darkly enticing Isaac, who invades her dreams and undermines her determination to escape. But Greta’s not the only one looking to get out of Mylena. The full moon is mere days away, and an ancient evil being knows she’s the key to opening the portal. If Greta fails, she and the boys she finds stranded in the woods will die. If she succeeds, no world will be safe from what follows her back . . .
Now, to the book. The author, Chloe Jacobs, did her homework on folklore, and that’s something I LOVE to see. In European mythology such beings like trolls, ogres and goblins kidnapped human children to their world to be used as servants (or in some of the more gory stories, eaten). Almost always these children are never heard from again; they’re considered lost to a world that is both alien and harsh.
The book starts out in just such a world—Mylena, a frozen-over snowball where day-to-day life is a struggle even if you're a native. Greta isn’t; when she was thirteen she and her brother were lured to a cave in the Black Forest in such a way it reminded me of Hansel and Gretal (no doubt purposely by the author, and I loved the cleverness of the twist on the fairy tale!). Greta suffers through the process of being sucked into the parallel world of Mylena, but at least she has the comfort of knowing she saved her brother Drew. Lost and alone in a frozen world, things get more complicated when she learns that in this new world it’s believed humans are responsible for the Myleans’ cursed existence and are hunted and murdered without mercy.
Sidenote: I loved this. How unfair can you get??? Greta didn’t ask to be kidnapped from the life she loved and in her own way tries desperately to cling to; the last place she wants to be is Mylena. Yet the moment she’s brought there she discovers she’s a member of a race thought of as “monstrous” by a world full of beings who grow fangs and claws and kill everything that twitches when there’s an eclipse. I just got so indignant on Greta’s behalf, you have no idea. I’m on your side, Greta!
The world-building Ms. Jacobs does is fantastic. Yes, it’s frozen, and yes there are two moons and two suns. But we discover this alien place is far more than just cosmetic differences, and we learn this through Greta as she struggles to escape the enemies pursuing her. We also discover Greta has had to become like the brutal inhabitants of Mylena—trained to be a cold-blooded bounty hunter who has no problem with the “Dead or Alive” thing, and deliberately cutting the emotion-driven human part of her out of the equation.
A perfect introduction into Greta’s complex character is displayed in the opening, where she hunts down a ghoul that has kidnapped a small goblin boy. Her first concern is making sure the boy gets out alive, not because of a tremendous swell of compassion for another living being—she needs the kid alive to collect the full bounty. The battle between Greta and the ghoul also displays her do-or-die combat abilities, which have made her a bit of a local legend. There is a strong sense that Greta is a hardened warrior with an unrelenting will to survive, and a heart that has become as frozen as the Mylean landscape.
The loss/burial of Greta’s humanity is so beautifully showcased by Ms. Jacobs. She wasn’t obvious about it like so many other stories out there—“Character-A refused to give into his/her weak human side” kind of writing. Rather, the author revealed how Greta has had to deaden that part of her through a series of dreams brought to her by the Goblin King, Isaac. Through these dreams we get a glimpse of a cute, slightly pampered blonde-haired girl from suburbia, with a pink backpack and snazzy sneakers, who loved hanging out at the beach and didn’t want to do something so boring and uncool like visit her grandfather in the Black Forest. It's heartbreaking, getting these glimpses of this sweet kid;compared to the seventeen-year-old ice-in-her-veins bounty hunter she's been forced to become, this younger version of Greta is almost unrecognizable.
Ah, Isaac. Since Greta has had to “pass” as a sprite for the past four years, she’s kept a low profile in Mylena, but she makes a mistake. She crosses paths with a cute goblin boy who, unbeknownst to Greta, is a prince. The magic surrounding this royal family is such that if a person says Isaac’s name, it’s considered an invitation for him to enter their dreams whenever he wishes. Worse, if a person asks for Isaac to make a wish come true, he grants it, but as a terrible cost—their soul becomes his, a concept Ms. Jacobs likens to the Chinese saying that if you save a life, you become responsible for that life for all time.
Both in Greta’s dreams and out, Isaac’s interest in her is palpable. The last thing the secretly human Greta needs is the attention of a powerful prince—who soon becomes the king of the goblins—but there’s no avoiding Isaac, or the train wreck of events his interest unleashes. Soon all of Mylena is hunting for her, and the mystery of how and why she'd been kidnapped begins to unravel, with a terrifying demon waiting at its core. It’s going to take all of her skills—and that beautiful, buried humanity she’s tried so hard to hide—to get to the bottom of what’s profoundly rotten in the world of Mylena.
I’m giving this a 5-star rating on Goodreads an Amazon, and I can’t wait for the next book. Write faster, Ms. Jacobs, please!
Buy GRETA AND THE GOBLIN KING on: Amazon B&N Powell's Kobo
Buy GRETA AND THE GOBLIN KING on: Amazon B&N Powell's Kobo