“It’s an Irish story, love,” Mrs. Wylltson said. “We don’t do happy endings.”KERSTEN HAMILTON, TYGER TYGER
Teagan Wylltson’s best friend, Abby, dreams that horrifying creatures—goblins, shape-shifters, and beings of unearthly beauty but terrible cruelty—are hunting Teagan. Abby is always coming up with crazy stuff, though, so Teagan isn’t worried. Her life isn’t in danger. In fact, it’s perfect. She’s on track for a college scholarship. She has a great job. She’s focused on school, work, and her future. No boys, no heartaches, no problems.
Until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives. Finn’s a bit on the unearthly beautiful side himself. He has a killer accent and a knee-weakening smile. And either he’s crazy or he’s been haunting Abby’s dreams, because he’s talking about goblins, too… and about being The Mac Cumhaill, born to fight all goblin-kind. Finn knows a thing or two about fighting. Which is a very good thing, because this time, Abby’s right. The goblins are coming.
I loved this book! It hit so many boxes for me. The main character’s name is Teagan (my name!), it’s based on Celtic pre-history and mythology, involved plenty of Sídhe, and even made references to Peter Pan! No wonder my mum thought it would be the perfect gift for me. It was super weird reading about a protagonist with my name at first, but once I got used to it I loved the book even more. It was a good thing Teagan was a driven and likeable character. In fact, all of the characters were. A lot of Irish references and customs were incorporated, the characters were complex and interesting, and it was an all round really enjoyable read. I’d ordered Book 2 and 3 before I’d even reached the halfway point. I liked the incorporation of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger“, and I’m interested to see how the reference flows through into In the Forests of the Night (Goblin Wars #2) and When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears (Goblin Wars #3).
Of course, it wasn’t without its flaws. I wasn’t a fan of how the author chose to represent the Sídhe as “savage,” “evil,” and “wicked servants” of Mab, hellbent on killing the Irish for seemingly no reason at all. It’s more complex than that, and I think this depiction was a bit superficial, but that’s the artistic route the author decided to go down (and of course the Christian influence) so I can’t really complain (and she does have an author’s note at the end of the book that clarifies “please remember that this book is merely a single storyteller’s reimagining of what is, what was, and what just might be”). On the other hand, she did go on to almost eat her words later in the book, clarifying that not all Sídhe are so narrow-minded, attributing the idea of ‘devolution’ and a differentiation between Sídhe and goblins which I thought was interesting.
My biggest issue with this book was the pacing, and the four month time jump didn’t do it any favours. A lot of the book involved the characters walking somewhere, and this didn’t help with the pacing either. I just wanted them to get where they were going faster so the real action could begin! Yet, when they did finally get wherever they were going or to a key moment in the plot, those events were glossed over. I think the story would’ve worked better if the time jump was written out. It seemed lazy, meaning the author didn’t have to deal with certain tough situations in the plot, when dealing with those issues would’ve made the story so much stronger. The romantic subplot was written sloppily, and I thought the cousin element was awkward. This comes down to the pacing too. The author didn’t allow enough time for the tension to build! Nevertheless, I was rooting for them throughout the whole novel. It just could’ve been executed better.
The pop culture references (particularly songs) were a bit overboard at times, but fun. I mentioned the references to Peter Pan earlier, and I did pick up on a Peter Pan influence beyond these references throughout the book, particularly in the second half and with the character of Aiden. I have conflicting feelings about this, to be honest. There were some Peter Pan-inspired elements that I really liked, but a certain character’s cockiness wasn’t one of them. Luckily it seemed to be more of a passing reference than an enduring character trait. I’m just hoping it doesn’t develop further in the rest of the series and was just a phase.
I also thought it was interesting that the author decided to set this novel in Chicago. It gave a great excuse for info dump (don’t get me started on the amount of info dump in this book), with the characters not being raised in Ireland and therefore needing certain history and words to be explained to them, but I am hoping that they do visit Ireland at some point in the series. I also wished they would stop italicising Irish words! It interrupted the flow and I didn’t see any reason for them to be italicised, especially when it’s a word we encounter frequently throughout the novel. The reader can recognise that it’s not English well enough on their own.
These next three paragraphs include some low-level spoilers, so please skip straight to the final paragraph if you want to avoid them.
Firstly, it really annoyed me that Abby did a complete 180 on her belief in goblins. At the start of the book, Abby was the one trying to convince Teagan that she was in serious danger, and then just four months later she wouldn’t have a bar of it? This didn’t make any sense. I also really liked Abby’s dynamic with Finn, and I think she would’ve made a great addition to the team. I’m hoping she is incorporated more in the next books, which was hinted at at end.
I also liked that Finn made a point of not stealing. Travellers get a bad rap, so I liked this touch (although it wasn’t particular subtle). I just wish this author would show, not tell! I can see that she was aiming at growth with Finn’s character after the four month time jump, but outright telling us that he’s a changed man doesn’t do anything for me. I need to see it! The author heavily relied on dialogue to get her ideas across, but I would’ve liked to see it more through the characters’ actions.
There were a few instances when characters were called out for swearing in front of Teagan (“a lady”) or she was otherwise targeted for being a female. These instances didn’t seem relevant and definitely didn’t advance the plot in any way, leaving me questioning why they were there in the first place. Aiden also made a point of getting angry when Teagan tricked him into singing a princess song, and when Lucy put flowers in his hair. This male/female divide left me feeling confused more so than anything else.
I’m far better at pointing out weaknesses than strengths, so just know that I really enjoyed this book! However, I doubt I would have felt the same way had it not been for my love of all things Irish. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and see where The Goblin Wars go!
Have you read Tyger Tyger? Do you want to?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!