2012 National Book Award Winner,
Young People's Literature
Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
With a sure hand, William Alexander here creates a wholly convincing world of mechanized soldiers, chicken-legged grandmothers, sentient rivers, and goblin actors. In that uncertain landscape, young Rownie learns the mysterious craft of masking to search for both his brother and his own story, unaware that the solution to these searches may be the salvation of his city.
Alexander’s world is one of possessiveness—and true love—brilliantly revealing our own selves by holding up our masks.
About the Book
Rownie, the youngest in Graba the witchworker's household of stray children, escapes and goes looking for his missing brother. Along the way he falls in with a troupe of theatrical goblins and learns the secret origins of masks. Now Graba's birds are hunting him in the Southside of Zombay, the Lord Mayor's guards are searching for him in Northside, and the River between them is getting angry. The city needs saving—and only the goblins know how.
About the Author
William Alexander studied theater and folklore at Oberlin College and English at the University of Vermont. He currently lives, writes, and teaches in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His short stories have been published in many magazines and anthologies, including Weird Tales, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Interfictions 2, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2008.
A goblin stepped onstage.
Rownie stared. He had never seen one of the Changed before. This one was completely bald, and taller than Rownie thought goblins could get. His sharp ear-tips stuck out sideways from his head, and his eyes were large and flecked with silver and brown. His skin was green; the deep green of thick moss and riverweed. His clothes were patched together from fabric of all different colors.
The goblin bowed. He set two lanterns at both corners of the stage, and then stood in the center. He held several thin clubs in one hand. He watched the audience in a cruel and curious way, the way molekeys watch beetles before they pull off their wings and legs.
Rownie felt like he should be hiding behind something. When the goblin moved, finally, throwing the clubs in the air with a snap of both sleeves, Rownie flinched.
The goblin started to juggle. Then he stomped his foot three times against the platform. A dragon puppet peered out through the curtain behind him. It was made of plaster and paper, and it glowed in golden colors. The puppet breathed fire over the stage. The goblin tossed his clubs up through the dragon breath, and each club caught fire at one end. Then the puppet roared and pulled back through the curtain. The goblin juggled fire.
Rownie tried jumping in place to get a better view. He wanted to be at the very front of the crowd, at the edge of the stage. He tried to push between knees and shoulders to get there. He couldn’t manage it. He clenched his hands and strained forward, but he couldn’t force himself to move.
“It will cost you two coppers to be any closer than this,” said a voice.
Rownie looked. A small, round, and wrinkled goblin stood beside him.