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Literature / Hollow Kingdom Trilogy

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You may be looking for the standalone novel Hollow Kingdom (2019).

The year is 1815, the setting England. In the wake of her father's death, young Kate Winslow comes to live at Hallow Hill, her younger sister Emily in tow. The girls settle in with their great aunts and try their best to fit into life on the mysterious estate, despite an unwelcoming guardian, the revelation of some dismaying family secrets and the uneasy feeling Kate gets one night, returning from a walk in the forest...


Lost during a storm one evening, a few months after their arrival at Hallow Hill, Kate and Emily are guided home by a mysterious cloaked man named Marak. Though Emily takes a liking to the stranger, Kate feels a deep distrust of him, and the more she learns, the more it becomes clear that her instincts are correct. Marak is brilliant, cruel, charming, powerfully magic, and extremely rude. Also, he's a goblin.

The first book of the trilogy, The Hollow Kingdom, deals with Kate's attempts to protect herself and Emily from Marak and her unscrupulous guardian, and her later involvement in the goblin kingdom. The second book, Close Kin, focuses more on the elves, who were thought to be extinct, with the story of Sable and her band, as well as the Coming of Age-cum-Girl Next Door-style love story of Emily and Seylin. The third book, In The Coils of the Snake, deals with Miranda, arranged to marry the goblin King in a plan much like one thought up by Hikaru Genji, except that this plan was orchestrated by the groom's father; like Close Kin, it also reveals more about the elves, by way of a very attractive elf lord with whom Miranda ends up living.


One of the strengths of the series is the detail it goes into in depicting the cultures and motivations of elves and goblins, in ways that both resemble and differ from traditional portrayals. Both species hold deep-set stereotypes and prejudices of each other—a common theme is the conflict between the two races, as well as their similarities. Another theme is the capture and forced marriage of human and elf brides, vital to the survival of both goblins and elves, which may be off-putting to some—however, this practice is not necessarily shown in a heroic light, and its negative effects are quite visible.

In addition to the three books, the author, Clare B. Dunkle, provides a substantial amount of All There in the Manual on her website, including short stories and deleted scenes.


These books provide examples of:

  • Abduction Is Love: The series is filled with female abduction and forced marriage. Most of those kidnappings turn to love: Sable and Tinsel, Thaydar and Irina, Lim and Blackwing, Nir and Miranda, Adele and Marak Dogclaw, etc.
  • Accidental Murder: Nir's magic killed his wife Kara.
  • The Ace: To all goblin Kings, Marak Lionclaw is the perfect example of what they aspire to be. During In the Coils of the Snake, Marak Sixfinger acts as this for Catspaw.
  • Action Prologue: Each book starts with a prologue where something horrible or shocking just happened or is about to happen.
    • The Hollow Kingdom describes Adele's kidnapping and the moments just before her forced marriage to Marak Dogclaw.
    • Close Kin Starts with the death of Sable's friend and her own realization that she will be the next to die, followed by her self-mutilation.
    • In the Coils of the Snake the first words "But why do you have to die tomorrow?"
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Catspaw with Miranda
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Seylin, due to his elven features; Miranda was a misfit because of her ties to the goblin world.
  • All Work vs. All Play: The elves are all play and very little work, which the hard working goblins disapprove of.
  • Alpha Bitch: Til is described as being the leader of a very exclusive clique among the pages before Richard comes and ruins it by being more interesting than her.
  • Always Someone Better: Catspaw feels this way about his father, Marak Sixfinger.
  • Ambadassador: Seylin during In the Coils of the Snake.
  • Arranged Marriage: This runs rampant throughout the books and in the series mythology. All elves are arranged to be married from the time the girl is twelve years old. Marak arranges for Thaydar and Irina, Tinsel and Sable, and Miranda and Catspaw to marry, though he doesn't get his way with the last of the three.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Both the elf and goblin Kings have the most powerful magical abilities in their races. Also, Thorn is leader of Sable's band because he's the best fighter.
  • Backstory: The history of the elves and goblins is essential to the novels. This backstory revealed regularly by various characters, especially Seylin. Characters often have important backstories that contribute to the importance of their personalities and the current plot, including Nir, Sable, and Marak.
  • The Beautiful Elite: The elves are impossibly and effortlessly beautiful. They are so beautiful, they don't need finery and look stunning even when they just woke up or are filthy.
  • Beast and Beauty: Goblins and their elf or human wives. The story of Lim and Blackwing is even modeled after the fairy tale.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Miranda and Nir must marry because his magic said it must be so. Marak also made a prophesy that she would be a King's Wife when she grew up. He just didn't know she would be the elf King's Wife.
  • Belated Love Epiphany: As a (mostly) human woman living in the goblin kingdom, Emily has to marry a goblin. After being turned down by her (because she was distracted by the kids she was babysitting, and because he didn't flat out say "will you marry me"), Seylin sets out to find his elf roots, because he looks exactly like an elf himself although he's a goblin. Emily is offended by this (partly because she is told that he went to find an elf bride) and claims to want to journey to find her human nature, but really to chase after him.
    In her mind, she practiced the speech she would say when they met. It had changed over the course of the last few weeks. "Get married? I don't really want to marry anybody, but if I have to, I'll marry you." "Get married? If you feel that way, it's all right with me." "Get married? I'd like to— if it's with you, I mean." And now, "Where are you, for heaven's sake? Why aren't you looking for me? Seylin, don't you want to get married?"
  • Beneath the Earth: The goblins live under the lake.
  • Birds of a Feather: Nir and Miranda. They're both reserved, cautious, and damaged by their childhoods. Their similarity is noted in the book.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The main heroines of the three books - Kate, Sable, and Miranda - fit this trope.
  • Brainy Brunette: Sable. She has a fixation with math. Not only does she study all forms of it, she uses it to relax.
  • Cassandra Truth: Kate tries to tell her guardians about the goblins so they can help her, but they refuse to believe her.
  • Chase Scene: Kate and Emily run from the goblins in the first book.
  • The Chessmaster: Marak Sixfinger. He manipulates everyone from book one to book three, though a lot of his plans backfire: his revenge on Hugh Roberts and raising Miranda to be his son's wife.
  • The Chosen One: Nir. The fate of the elves is in jeopardy and only he can revive the race.
  • Combat by Champion: The end of In the Coils of the Snake.
  • Comic Trio: Catspaw, Richard, and Seylin fit, though they're not at all comical and the straight man is able to eventually prevent disaster. Catspaw's the one who comes up with the incorrect conclusions and idiotic plans that drive the plot. Richard is the one blindly following his orders. Seylin is the intelligent one trying to figure out what's really going on.
  • Creation Myth: Elves and goblins were each created by the First Fathers who disagreed on whether to create their race based on beauty or strength and ended up creating one of each.
  • Daddy's Girl: Kate and her father, Til and Marak Sixfinger, Sable and Lord Sable, and probably Fay and Tinsel.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Sable, Nir (Ash), Dentwood, and Celia. Elf lords tend to pass on names for generations, which is the case with Sable and Nir. Also, Goblin Kings are all named Marak though all of them have nicknames that they are referred to around close friends and family, as well as historic record.
  • Deal with the Devil: The only way for humans to practice magic.
  • Death by Childbirth: Elf women have a difficult time with childbirth and will die without the proper magic. When Sable's camp loses the knowledge of that magic, every elf woman in the camp dies through childbirth until Sable refuses to marry Thorn out of fear of the same fate.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: Elf men hand their wives and fiances their food. Thorn denies Sable food as a form of punishment for mutilating her own face so she wouldn't have to marry him. On a regular basis, he gives her as little food as possible, once even using a piece of bread as a napkin to clean his face before dropping it on the ground for her to pick up and eat. When she wakes him up after having a nightmare, he withholds it altogether.
  • Distant Prologue: The first two books have prologues that take place years before the main action of the novels.
    • The Hollow Kingdom begins with the Marak Sixfinger's mother, Adele, being kidnapped by his father, Marak Dogclaw, seventy years before Kate's story begins.
    • Close Kin starts out four and a half years before the main story begins.
  • Dream Weaver: Marak sends Kate to sleep multiple times either with nightmares or good dreams.
  • Duel to the Death: Nir and Catspaw face off, intending to fight to the death only to find out they can't hurt each other.
  • Escalating War: There is always a war between the elves and goblins. When Nir brings his band back to their ancestral land, a war escalates between him and Catspaw as they tit for tat each other.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Nir's real name is Ash, but he is always referred to as Nir, which means "elf lord" in elvish. The same goes for the elf and goblin Kings who are solely known by their king titles with Aganir and Marak, respectively.
  • Fake King: Aganir U-Sakar, the elf King named New Moon. An unwitting impostor, he is a camp lord's son switched for the real Heir by the elf King's Wife, thus disrupting the whole lineage.
  • Fantastic Racism: A theme in the series is the racism between elves and goblins. Both races are also racist against humans.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Some King's Wives and stolen goblin brides feel this way and attempt to commit suicide rather than be with their new spouse. Also, when the elves believed their King was dead without an heir and the goblin King, Marak Whiteye offered to become their King, they said they would rather die- most of them did.
  • Fictionary: Elvish is based on Sumerian.
  • Fiery Redhead: Miranda. She gets to tear into Nir and Catspaw and literally burn Seylin.
  • Flashback: Nir and Miranda are constantly flashing back to their childhoods during In the Coils of the Snake. The flashbacks are usually caused by a Flashback Echo, such as Nir feeling guilty for doing to Miranda what his father did to his mother.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Freudian Excuse: Til's bitchiness is somewhat more understandable when you consider her childhood.
  • Freudian Trio: The books have a few sets of these.
    • First generation of goblins:
      • Seylin - the cool, calm, rational superego, even as a child.
      • Marak Sixfinger - the more emotionally motivated id.
      • Thaydar - the ego, which is a combination of the two.
    • The elf brides:
      • Sable - (superego) logical, calm, and intelligent.
      • Irina - (id) emotionally driven.
      • Kate - (ego) emotional, but also logical.
    • Second generation of goblins:
      • Seylin - the calm, logical, and rational superego.
      • Catspaw - the more emotionally motivated id.
      • Richard - the ego, which is a combination of the two.
  • Heir Club for Men: The elf and goblin Kings main goal.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Both Nir and Catspaw want the redheaded Miranda.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Kate sacrifices herself to Marak to save Emily.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Marak and Thaydar, Thorn and Rowan, Nir and Hunter, Hunter and Tattoo.
  • Holding Hands: Elves are really into holding hands
  • Honest Advisor: Seylin to both Nir and Catspaw.
  • Hot Consort: Whether goblin or elf, every King just coincidentally happens to have a Hot Consort.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Seylin and Emily
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The lesson learned in the first book is that goblins are good and humans are awful. Slightly subverted in Close Kin.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Miranda to Nir.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Nir to Miranda. She argues with him, says he's worse than a goblin, and is decidedly not deferential. Of course he falls in love.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: The Elves in are described as being much better looking than humans. Also, the difference between the beauty of elvish nobility to elvish commoners is compared in-story to the difference of an elvish commoner and a human.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Kate and Miranda plan to write their own stories down to compare them.
  • It Was a Gift: The bracelet Kate gives to Miranda during In the Coils of the Snake.
  • Jerkass: Thorn is a first-class Jerkass, especially with his treatment of Sable.
  • Killed Off for Real: Marak at the start of In the Coils of the Snake.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Marak Sixfinger gets revenge on Kate's guardian for his actions against her and Emily. That revenge then comes back to haunt his entire kingdom when that guardian, who is in a mental institution as a result of the revenge, tells a sorcerer about the goblins, which in turn leads the sorcerer to steal the souls of as many goblins as he can.
  • Lovecraft Country: The setting of the story, especially in the deleted scenes.
  • Love Dodecahedron: During Close Kin and In the Coils of the Snake.
    • Close Kin is based on the romantic rejections, misunderstandings, and forced marriages of the characters.
      • Seylin and Thaydar want to marry Emily, who doesn't want to marry anyone at all until Seylin leave and she suddenly wants him.
      • Thorn wants to marry Sable, who refuses out of fear of dying in childbirth. He later thinks Seylin wants to marry Irina, at which point, he stakes his claim on her himself.
      • Irina and Sable are then taken as stolen brides by Thaydar and Tinsel, respectively.
    • There is a love polygon between Nir, Miranda, Catspaw, Arianna, and Tattoo. Arianna and Tattoo don't really want to be involved. So the core of the triangle would be with Nir, Miranda, and Catspaw.
      • Arianna isn't in love with anyone, but starts out engaged to Nir only to be forced into a marriage with Catspaw.
      • Tattoo just wants to marry Seylin's daughter, Celia, but is slated to marry Miranda after her engagement to Catspaw is broken, against both of their inclinations.
      • Nir has to marry Miranda because his magic says he must and he falls in love with her during the course of the book.
      • Catspaw falls in love with Miranda during their engagement, but must give her up for Arianna who will bear him a stronger son.
      • Miranda initially wants to marry Catspaw because she was raised to do so by Marak. She later falls in love with Nir and wants to be with him, while Catspaw and Seylin want her to marry Tattoo.
  • Love Triangle: Seylin/Emily/Thaydar in Close Kin. Seylin and Thaydar each want Emily, but for different reasons. Seylin is in love with her while Thaydar wants to marry her for his social position.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Til. Manipulation is the only power she has as one of the few humans in a magical world. But she's damn good wielding that power.
  • Manly Men Can Hunt: Hunting is extremely important in elf culture. They look down on the goblins who don't hunt their food.
  • Manly Tears: Seylin when Marak Sixfinger dies. Tinsel when Sable is thought to be dying.
  • Mars Needs Women: Goblins and elves need human women too as it turns out.
  • May–December Romance: Nir and Miranda, Irina and Thaydar, Catspaw and Arianna—Kate and Marak is the most extreme example. He's more than forty years older than her.
  • Meaningful Name: All elf names have meanings that connect to the time of their birth or are given as a gift and passed down through generations, like Nir (Ash) and Sable.
  • The Mentor: Marak Sixfinger to Seylin. Seylin to Marak Catspaw and Nir.
  • Mr. Exposition: Seylin. Through all three books, he is the one explaining the background information for all the characters. Marak Sixfinger and Nir also take on this role while explaining goblin or elf culture, respectively to their brides.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Kate in The Hollow Kingdom and Miranda during In the Coils of the Snake.
  • Never Learned to Read: Sable and Irina, before they're kidnapped by the goblins
  • Number Two: Thaydar to Marak, Hunter to Nir, and Richard to Catspaw.
  • Oblivious to Love: Both Marak and Nir are surprised to learn that Kate and Miranda, respectively, have fallen in love with them.
  • Police Are Useless: Arianna easily takes out her guards, as does Seylin when he breaks Miranda out of her prison.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Catspaw for Miranda and Thaydar for Emily.
  • Royal Blood: Only the direct descendant of the elf or goblin Kings can truly rule their own race. No camp lord son's need apply.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The elf and goblin Kings are both responsible for the welfare of their races.
    • The goblin Kings traditionally manage the spells supporting the Kingdom and find work for the dwarves. In the first book, Marak is so dedicated to his duties that he resumes them while he is bedridden after having his soul stolen, something that is indicated to have greatly impeded his recovery.
    • Elf Kings renew the border spell around their kingdoms to protect their lands. Nir (Aganir Ash) protects his people and makes sacrifices at his own expense to ensure the survival of his race.
    • Kate gets props for breaking out of the Goblin Kingdom, despite being heavily enchanted against just that, to go rescue Marak in the first place. She also works in goblin schools, teaching English to the ones who will have to travel the surface and interact with humans.
  • Second Love: Kate is Marak's second wife. Sable ends up with Tinsel after loving and then hating Thorn for most of her life. Thaydar originally wanted Emily before finding Irina. Thorn marries an unnamed elf woman after losing Sable and Irina. Miranda wanted to marry Catspaw before falling in love with Nir. Nir was married to Kara and then engaged to Arianna before ending up with Miranda.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: The goblins are very fashion conscious, even the men. Kate is particularly surprised to see Marak so stylishly dressed when she first comes to his kingdom.
  • Shipper on Deck: Marak with Seylin and Emily. Then Seylin with Miranda and Tattoo.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Kate and Emily. Kate is a beautiful, proper lady with manners and is very magical, while Emily is plain, has zero manners, and has no magical ability.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Most goblins stalk their potential brides before kidnapping them. Examples in the text or mentioned on the author's site are Marak with Kate, Marak Dogclaw with Adele, and Thorn with Sable.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Kate, toward Marak. Quite understandable, as she is a refined English gentlewoman trained to keep her cool in difficult situations, and he did kidnap her. Sable later shows similar tendencies toward Tinsel, and Miranda towards Nir.
  • Tagalong Kid: Seylin in the first book.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: Elf newborns are bigger and older so they are more attractive and not ugly like most newborns.
  • Two-Teacher School: The only teachers who appear on the page are Kate, who teaches English, and Ruby, who teaches human studies. Lore-Master Webfoot, the elf studies teacher, is also mentioned.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Almost every goblin/non-goblin marriage with the exception of Seylin and Emily, which is the opposite.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Since the women are mostly kidnap victims, they always start out not wanting their spouse, and in a lot of cases continue not to want them and even attempt suicide to get away. In the cases where elf King's give their stolen wives amnesia to force their devotion, they soon no longer want their brides because of how childlike and dependent they become.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend: Seylin to Emily.
  • Wife Husbandry: On a massive scale: elf girls are traditionally looked after by their fiancees, who are often older, until they marry at eighteen. Could be considered a Jail Bait Wait, but much less Squicky than than the typical example; elves regard any female under eighteen as a child, and the idea of having any kind of romance with her is abhorrent to them.
  • Warrior Prince: The royalty in this series do battle. Marak fights the sorcerer, Kate and Arianna have a mini-King's Wife battle, Nir and Catspaw duel, and the series mythology is filled with battles.
  • Weddings for Everyone: The end of Close Kin.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Catspaw plans on marrying his bride, Miranda, three months after his father's death, which is customary. When he receives a new bride, Arianna, from the elf lord, he keeps the same ceremony with the only change being the person he marries.
  • Worthy Opponent: Catspaw is eager to find one at the start of In the Coils of the Snake and he and Nir end up becoming this to each other.
  • Wrong Guy First: Sable with Thorn and Miranda with Catspaw.
  • You Are Number 6: Lim. Her name means 4 in elvish. Since fourth children are rare in elf culture, when a fourth child is born, he or she is always named Lim.
  • You Got Spunk!: Marak is pleasantly surprised when Kate is clever and fights back against his kidnapping attempts. According to Agatha, Emily's also got pluck.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: The heroine, Kate, sacrifices herself to Marak to save her sister. Marak manages to marry Kate and insert her into his world with no possible way out. Sad ending? Nope. The book flashesforward more than a year for the last four chapters and adds a human sorceror villian who is out to enslave the souls of all the goblins.

Alternative Title(s): The Hollow Kingdom Series