The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle
Author: Molly Ringle
For those who wish to study legends and lore, there is a truth that is well known: never, ever make a deal with the fae. If you do, not only will you lose something precious, but whatever it is you wished to gain will be cheapened by what you have to give to obtain your desire.
Molly Ringle’s The Goblins of Bellwater understands this concept well. When goblin liaison Kit inadvertently endangers sisters Livy, a forest ranger, and Skye, a talented artist, as well as his own cousin Grady, by coming up short on gold for his monthly offering to the goblin tribe, he sets in motion a slew of awful spells, magical lust, and sorrow onto their heads. All the while he’s dealing with his own curse: that he and his kin will always be connected to the tribe of cackling, mischievous, and cruel goblins, who care nothing for him except for the material possessions he steals for them. The four of them will have to work together to break a magical curse that they do not fully understand in order to save Skye from being turned into a goblin and lost to humanity forever.
What follows next is a wonderful race against the clock. The expectation is that Kit—as the one knowledgeable about magical worlds and the rugged, handsome, slightly-grumpy bad boy of town—is going to be the one to rescue them all. Yet it is actually the headstrong Livy, who respects both the human world and the magical forest, even if she didn’t know it, who has to get down and dirty and deal with the goblins.
The book is primarily a supernatural romance. Skye and Grady are thrown together and must deal with their feelings for one another which might be genuine, might be the result of goblin mischief, or might be a little bit of both, but their longing and desire for one another keep the plot moving forward. The book also borrows from thrillers and mystery, as our four heroes must unwind historical, magical lore and the politic of the fae to save themselves from being ensnared in a world whose rules are dictated by pleasure without consequence. The real triumph is not the magical world, with all its promises of delicious fruit, wildness, and unrestrained happiness, but the world that we all live in, where we have to make hard choices and potentially lose and hurt people to set things right.
What is most admirable about this novel is how much Ringle eschews making the magical into something desirable. In a genre where the monster is often made out to be a beautiful, handsome, and delicious anti-hero waiting around to either be saved by or seduce the heroine, Ringle keeps the realm of magic and the land of humans separate, and warns of the dangers of mixing the two.
There will always be consequences, because magic does not operate within human logic. There are rules that must be followed, yes, but there are always loopholes, and you can only work within them if you are willing to make deals with magical creatures who will love you one moment and destroy you the next.
Reviewed for the SFWP Quarterly by A. A. Balaskovits.
A. A. Balaskovits is the author of Magic for Unlucky Girls (Santa Fe Writers Project, 2017). Her fiction and essays appear or will appear in various magazines and anthologies. Her short fiction was named one of Wigleaf’s Top 50 fictions in 2017. She was awarded the New Writers Award from Sequestrum in 2015 and won the grand prize for the 2015 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards series. Find her on Twitter @AABalaskovits.