of the Center for Children's Books:
Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist. Sometimes we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.
Clare B. Dunkle
Former librarian Clare B. Dunkle is a writer worth watching. Gifted with the ability to create unique historical fantasy novels with a narrative pull like a Hoover, she wins fanatically dedicated readers right and left.
In her first book, The Hollow Kingdom (BCCB 2/04), she includes all the ingredients of fantasy, historical fiction, and even melodrama—and then masterfully reverses the power dynamic of each story type. Orphaned sisters Kate and Emily come to live on their newly inherited estate, Hallow Hill, only to find themselves beseiged there by goblins. The king of the goblins, Marak, seeks a human bride, for goblins cannot produce children by their own kind. Kate has other ideas. This gripping, eerie, yet pragmatic romance celebrates the power we each have to choose what kind of person we will be and thereby come off conqueror, even in the midst of danger and deception.
The second book in the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy, Close Kin (BCCB 12/04), takes place several years after the first, and focuses in part on now-marriageable Emily and her goblin friend and would-be husband Seylin. Miscommunication and misunderstanding split the pair and send them on complementary journeys through the countryside surrounding the entrance to the goblin kingdom, bringing them into contact with a degenerate race of elves who, having lost their magical lore, are no longer able to care for themselves. Though the goblins and the elves have been at war for centuries, these two disparate races must now look to each other for perpetuation. Both books extant of the trilogy share deft narration and skillful characterization that shine against the backdrop of their adroitly built fantasy world.
Dunkle's third book, By These Ten Bones (BCCB 5/05), is not an addition to her ongoing trilogy. Set in medieval Scotland , it is instead a riveting combination of historical romance and gothic horror. Maddie has never ventured away from her small village at the edge of the loch; when she befriends and later falls for an exotic newcomer, Paul, she unknowingly enters a vicious circle of hate and destruction—the inevitable fate of any who become intimate with a werewolf. Maddie is an unlettered provincial, but she has magnificent heart and endless courage. Without venturing into histrionics or a great deal of graphic gore (though the violence may surprise gentle Hollow Kingdom readers), Dunkle nevertheless crafts a chillingly compelling story, one with deep and satisfyingly realistic roots in the Scotland of ages past.
With the third Hollow Kingdom book, In the Coils of the Snake, due out in October, and another independent novel in the works (see Dunkle's Web page at www.claredunkle.com for details), expectant readers have much to look forward to. Three solid hits marked by glowing reviews bode well for Dunkle's future publications and the happy contentment—and ever-increasing numbers—of her fans.
—Timnah Card, reviewer
The Hollow Kingdom . Holt, 2003. (BCCB 2/04)
Close Kin. Holt, 2004. (BCCB 12/04)
By These Ten Bones. Holt, 2005. (BCCB 5/05)