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Literature / The Goblin Wood

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Sorry gobbos, the humans are evicting you from the woods.

The Goblin Wood is a 2003 teen medieval fantasy novel by Hilari Bell.

Makenna is a young lady whose mother is killed for witchcraft on the order of the newly arrived priest of the Hierarchy, which does not want any magic to exist outside of its control. Her death is just one in a series of religious pogroms against witches, goblins, and social pariahs. Makenna doesn't take it well, so she floods her village by opening the floodgate on a dam and runs away. She encounters and spares the life of a goblin named Cogswhallop, and soon finds herself waging a guerilla war to keep goblins across the Realm from being slaughtered. The girl and her goblin friend lead the surviving goblins into the northern wilds beyond a mysterious wall that stretches across a thin isthmus to escape human persecution.

Meanwhile, the Hierarchy is putting a young knight, Tobin, through a gruesome trial for unwittingly aiding his rebellious brother. As a penance quest given to him by a mysterious priest, he goes north in search of a vile sorceress who has been gathering a goblin army, harrying humans and preventing the settlement of the north, which is part of a vast evacuation plan for the Realm to escape from the encroaching southern barbarians. The sorceress captures Tobin, and it turns out to be Makenna, who for all her affinity with goblins lacks the magical power the Hierarchy believes she must have to control so many goblins. Makenna actually commands them with a combination of buttons and The Power of Friendship. When Tobin sees that she's not an evil sorceress, and she sees that Tobin isn't a Knight Templar, they both have to deal with their misconceptions of each other while both the humans and the goblins face imminent extinction.

The Goblin Wood is the first book in a trilogy; its sequels, The Goblin Gate and The Goblin War were published in 2010 and 2011, respectively. The Goblin Gate focuses mostly on Jeriah, Tobin's brother, trying to save Tobin and uncovering a dangerous web of political intrigue in the process; The Goblin War deals with the long-foretold war against the cannibalistic barbarians of the South.

Tropes present in this book include:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted by the goblins. The goblins have to deal with humans assuming this of them, and some of them decide to fight back. The scenes with the goblin children are especially good at explaining the subversion to Tobin.
  • Asshole Victim: The landlord that Rovanscourt falsely testifies against.
  • Axe-Crazy: The Hierarchy's spies report that there is a whole culture of people like this to the south, justifying their plan to slaughter the goblin inhabitants of the north to make room for a more defensible human nation.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Throughout The Goblin Wood, Makenna and the goblins are looking for a place where they can settle, away from the fighting. At the end of the book, Makenna, Tobin, and a large group of the goblins head for the Otherworld, which they think is the place they've been looking for. In The Goblin Gate, however, it turns out that the Otherworld isn't the peaceful world they'd wished for. The world itself seems to be out to harm them; anything they try to build with completely falls apart in a few days, and any water source they find eventually dries up. In addition, the world saps magic from any who have it, rendering Makenna and the goblins unable to use their magic; it saps life force from those who don't have magic, which throughout the book slowly kills Tobin.
  • Berserk Button: Makenna's mother is executed for witchcraft. Makenna decides to flood the whole town.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Tobin for Jeriah. His entire involvement in the plot comes about because he takes the blame for Jeriah's involvement in an anti-government conspiracy, in order to save his brother from being executed for treason.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Goblins place a high value on payment/exchange for services rendered, yet do not require the payment to be high in value. Makenna's goblin soldiers obey her commands in exchange for buttons and knick-knacks.
    • As far as Lazur is concerned everything is either beneficial or a hindrance to the relocation.
  • Captured by Cannibals When they manage to get Tobin out of the spirit's world he ends up in a barbarian camp.
  • Church Militant: The Hierarchy rules the Realm, sending priests and knights to enforce its teachings to the laity.
  • Dark Magical Girl: Subverted with Makenna.
  • Demythification: Makenna has to walk Tobin through this.
  • Disappeared Dad: Makenna's father walked out on the family a long while ago, apparently because he couldn't tolerate being with a hedgewitch. While Makenna's mother says that he loved them both anyway, Makenna isn't so forgiving.
  • Elemental Powers: Goblins are divided racially by the type of magic they possess: Flamers can conjure fire, Makers create copper tools and weapons, etc. The various goblin races tend to breed with their own kind.
    • Cogswhallop, the son of a Flamer and a Maker, can handle iron, which is usually painful for goblins.
  • The Empire: The Hierarchy, but they foresee that they may become The Remnant.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Subverted by Makenna; she's only made out to be one. She knows a few spells, but her power is limited. She eventually steals the spellbook of a powerful priest to learn more magic.
  • Exact Words: How Makenna gets around Master Lazur's first truth spell; when he asks her if she serves the sorceress, she is easily able to say no because although she is indeed the enemy Master Lazur speaks of, she is a hedgewitch, and there is no sorceress at all.
  • The Fair Folk: The goblins. They possess many qualities of fairies in general, including an aversion to iron.
    • Go ahead, Makenna. Pick up that apple in the orchard guarded by a family of goblins; surely there won't be a terrifying chase scene.
  • Going Native: Tobin
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Makenna, in the first book, is a little too obsessed with protecting the goblins.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The humans of the Realm turn on their goblin neighbors with fire and steel with only a word from their priests, threatening the goblins with extinction.
    • In the lands of the southern barbarians, something of this nature has already happened.
  • I Should Have Been Better: When Makenna only saves a few goblins in her first attempt
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The barbarians
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Master Lazur may be actively working towards the extinction of magical creatures, but he is correct about the relocation being a necessity.
  • Killed Off for Real: Lazur
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Tobin, in that he is forced to become a Knight Templar to spare his beloved brother from the cold, hard justice of the Hierarchy.
  • Light Is Not Good: The priest, who worship the seven Bright Gods, are the main enemy of the first two books.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Timeon Lazur. Tobin and Jeriah's mother is also good at this, but her plans are more prone to backfire.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Makenna when she takes everyone to the Otherworld, and Jeriah when he has Lazur hung to bring Tobin back.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The term "goblin" essentially refers to any of a number of fae species with distinctive magical phenotypes and a stated ability to interbreed.
  • Parental Favoritism: Tobin and Jeriah's father seems to heavily favor the former, even after Tobin is banished from the village. It's well-known to Tobin and Jeriah that he bribed officials in order to spare Tobin's life on the charges of treason (Jeriah finds out early in The Goblin Gate that he sold a fair amount of land to do so), and it's later revealed that he lied under oath to have another man executed in Tobin's place.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The blood amulets the barbarians use are made by sacrificing a human and a spirit. The human is more often one of their own.
  • Secretly Dying: Tobin in The Goblin Gate. Inverted in that pretty much all the main characters outside the Otherworld know the truth; it's Tobin and Makenna that are unaware.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Tobin and Jeriah's mother shows a fondness for using sleeping drugs as a weapon in The Goblin Gate. Later revealed to be the case with the Heirarch; Master Lazur has been slipping him a mind-numbing drug for the past seven years in order to ensure that he doesn't stand in the way of his various conspiracies.
  • Teen Genius: Makenna turns out to be a military genius.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The Goblin Wood alternates telling the story between Makenna and Tobin.
  • The Unfettered: Timeon Lazur
  • Weak, but Skilled: Makenna doesn't have very much magical power and most of the spells that priests and the like use are beyond her ability, but her intelligence and tactical skills generally make up for it.
  • What Is One Man's Life In Comparison?: Lazur's defense for absolutely everything he does.
  • You Didn't Ask: Jeriah floods a village in order to get the goblins to put him in contact with the lesser ones. It turns out the main contact is the man who helped him meet the goblins, back when the goblins were the only group Jeriah was tracking down.