Pros: An all-around wonderful story
Rating: 5 out of 5
T. Kingfisher’s Nine Goblins gives us a world in which goblins–who aren’t so bad, really–are at war with humans and elves. It’s what happens when you keep getting pushed out of your habitats until there’s nothing left to do but turn and take a stand. We find ourselves traveling along with the Whinin’ Niners, a particularly motley crew. They’re just trying to survive the war, but things take a turn for the magical when they charge a human wizard and he opens an escape hatch in the air–one they find themselves falling through as well. They’re left stranded 40 miles behind enemy lines with an unconscious and probably psychotic human mage (after all, everyone knows that mages are psychotic, suffering from Arcane Manifestation Disorder). Not wanting to be responsible for murder, they get a little water into him, put a blanket over him, and take off toward home. Along the way they meet Sings-to-Trees, a most unusual elf. Instead of being ultra-fashionable and unwilling to get his fingers dirty, he’s a veterinarian. In fact, we first see him up to the shoulder in an ungrateful unicorn, trying to help birth her breech baby. He’s used to all manner of foul and disgusting things–like goblins. He even knows some of their language. He teams up with the goblins to find out why the nearby human village seems to be mysteriously empty of people and animals alike, only to end up in an awful lot of danger.
The characters are fantastic. From the goblin who only speaks for his teddy-bear to the elf who can’t help stopping to treat a big blubbery baby of a troll, from the goblin who makes machines that don’t blow up to the person responsible for much of the bad stuff going on, they each shine in their own way. They have unique and fantastic personalities that make them riveting to follow. Character interactions between the goblins made me laugh out loud, and the weird collection of characters truly brought the tale alive. I mean, did we need an elven veterinarian in here? Of course not, but he’s such an exceptional character that he slipped seamlessly into the tale and brought it to life. Kingfisher has a knack for going beyond what’s needed into what’s magical.