This has been the third goblin-related book that I've read this year, and while it is arguably the best of the three, I have to say that it did not hold up to my expectations. I've read The Goblin Market and assumed that the book was going to follow the Labyrinth formula - which it did to an extent. However, uneven pacing and some odd creative choices caused me to give the book a lower rating than I would have, had these issues not been present.
First, let me give credit where credit is due. The cover is lovely - it's a huge reason behind why I wanted to pick up the book in the first place. I also feel like it ties into the story well, as the wildflowers conjure up that wild beauty that many associate with Washington's lush and gorgeous rainforests. The setting of this book was also great, and like I said, I loved the concept because I love Labyrinth and Labyrinth is the metaphorical yardstick by which I measure any romance-themed faerie story I come across.
THE GOBLINS OF BELLWATER is set in Bellwater, Washington, near Puget Sound. Two siblings, Skye and Livy, have always had a close relationship with the woods. Skye is a barista/artist and Livy is a forest ranger. They get mixed up with Kit, a mechanic, and his cousin, Grady, a cook, though circumstances involving goblins. Because in addition to his day job, Kit also acts as a liaison to the fae, and when he displeases them they end up cursing one of the locals, in this case: Skye. Skye ends up cursing Grady, by giving him an enchanted kiss and claiming him as her "mate," which ends up bringing the entanglement full circle. If Kit and Livy want their relatives back, they have to outsmart the fae and they have to do it soon, before both Skye and Grady are lost forever.
The writing in this story is really great, but the sex scenes and the romance all felt forced. Especially with the enchantment, which gives the relationship between Skye and Grady an icky feel. Skye's enchantment in the beginning also causes her to no longer be able to smile, laugh, or feel joy, either, so Livy makes some weird assumptions about Skye's mental state and depression in general, which involve opinions that are based on false facts (e.g. people with tons of good things in their lives shouldn't have anything to feel depressed about). I was wondering whether this was because the author was trying to portray Livy as ignorant, or due to oversight, and the author actually commented on one of my status updates and said it was the former, so it was nice to get confirmation on that. But the whole way it was dealt with felt awkward to me and, like the issue of consent regarding the enchantment sex between Skye and Grady, I felt like it wasn't handled as well as it could have been.
I didn't really care about Kit and Livy or Grady and Skye much until the last 1/4 of the book, which is where the story turned around for me. The way Livy goes about saving her sister was really, really cool, and if the majority of the book had been more like that, I would have really enjoyed THE GOBLINS OF BELLWATER, because that was the magic and adventure I was expecting when I picked this up. It was also the first part of the book where there was some actual intense emotional content and I found myself rooting for the characters instead of passively reading about them.
This really was not a bad book, and I felt like it deals with the fae lore and mythology in a fresh and interesting way. The execution was a little iffy for me and in some ways it has the "uncertainty" of a debut novel, but the world-building and the clear writing made up for a lot of the flaws. People who enjoy books reminiscent of Labyrinth and enjoy stories about faeries and goblins will enjoy THE GOBLINS OF BELLWATER. I would read more by this author.
2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars