Friday, June 24, 2011

Ophelia vs. The Goblin King?

This is not the latest strange movie to be released in Hollywood but the characters from two books battling it out in the 2011 YA Bloggers Best Overlooked Book Battle hosted by Alyssa of The Shady Glade.

Along with my co-judge Jasmyn of Jasmyn's Stuff, I read Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein and The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle.

Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein

He is Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; she is simply Ophelia. If you think you know their story, think again.

In this reimagining of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, it is Ophelia who takes center stage. A rowdy, motherless girl, she grows up at Elsinore Castle to become the queen's most trusted lady-in-waiting. Ambitious for knowledge and witty as well as beautiful, Ophelia learns the ways of power in a court where nothing is as it seems. When she catches the attention of the captivating, dark-haired Prince Hamlet, their love blossoms in secret. But bloody deeds soon turn Denmark into a place of madness, and Ophelia's happiness is shattered. Ultimately she must choose between her love for Hamlet and her own life. In desperation, Ophelia devises a treacherous plan to escape from Elsinore forever... with one very dangerous secret.

I thought this was a unique take on Shakespeare's Hamlet. I loved the play when I read it in high school and college. I always liked Hamlet though I didn't like his treatment of Ophelia. Here we see things from a different angle and we get to know Ophelia better. I liked her more than Hamlet after reading this book. I also really enjoyed the historical details about life at court in Elsinore, clothing, customs, and especially herbal remedies.  Unfortunately I found the pacing too slow at times and it was all too easy to put the book down.  I also thought the language became clunky whenever the author strayed too close to Shakespearean dialogue from the play. Most of the dialogue was written in a way to suggest a different historical time period but it was still very readable. When the lines nearly directly quote Shakespeare however it doesn't flow as smoothly. I understood why she did it but wish she had rephrased the sentences to match the writing style used in the rest of the book. Overall I thought Ophelia was an enjoyable book and our eponymous heroine was a great character to read about. This is the second book I've read by Lisa M. Klein (after Cate of the Lost Colony) and she has proved to be an excellent YA historical fiction writer.

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

For thousands of years, young women have been vanishing from Hallow Hill, never to be seen again. Now Kate and Emily have moved there with no idea of the land's dreadful heritage—until Marak decides to tell them himself. Marak is a powerful magician who claims to be the goblin king, and he has very specific plans for the two new girls who have trespassed into his kingdom . . .

The Hollow Kingdom is a creative historical fantasy. The kingdom that Clare Dunkle creates is filled with unusual creatures as well as those familiar to readers of fantasy like dwarves and elves. The goblins are different from what I've come to expect. They are not quite villains but neither are they straightforward heroes. Marak has some heroic qualities while at the same time he is bound by the other unlikeable characteristics of being a goblin king such as having to abduct a bride to ensure the survival of his people. Kate is a good heroine with a mix of strengths and weaknesses. She lacks the pluck of her younger sister Emily but makes up for it with her determination. What I enjoyed the most about The Hollow Kingdom though was the adventure. I was pulled into the mystery wanting to know what was going to happen next. I found this book to be reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, The Twelve Dancing Princesses,  A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce, and Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. 

So which book will advance in the Book Battle?

The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle!

This book was a winner for me because of its creativity, the main characters (especially Marak), the writing style, and the way the story drew me in.  This is certainly a book I overlooked and now I want to read the rest of the trilogy.

Find out what Jasmyn thought of The Hollow Kingdom at her blog, Jasmyn's Stuff.

You can follow the YA Bloggers Best Overlooked Book Battle at:



  1. I haven't read Ophelia but The Hollow Kingdom series is definitely one of me and my sisters favorites! So glad you liked it!

  2. I have overlooked both of these, but I definitely love the sound of The Hollow Kingdom and will be looking to remedy my oversight soon.


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