Fans of classic adventure and quest stories will find all the expected elements in The Goblin's Puzzle: an orphan who hopes to discover his fate, a beautiful princess, a clever commoner, a goblin, an ogre, a dragon, an evil sorcerer, duels, dungeons, etc. And they are all necessary for the plot, not just extra trimmings thrown in to impress us as readers. After all, a hero traditionally needs to defeat three monsters, each one more powerful and dangerous than the one before it. The beautiful princess can't be endangered by horrible monsters unless the evil sorcerer is involved. (Okay, she could. But what would be the fun in that?) And there must be a resourceful and quick-thinking peasant to make all the royalty and nobility look foolish with their powdered wigs that it takes two butlers to hold in place (not that I'm judging anyone).
So the boy with no name quite accidentally begins a quest to find his fate and his place in the world and encounters all these people and creatures, along with a few others such as the major domo who works for the sorcerer, the rule-quoting chamberlain who is part of the king's cabinet, and a sage who is a terrible farmer. Of course he has a talisman (a ring from his father), and along the way he acquires some weapons, but he also manages to make some friends and gain some confidence along the way.
I appreciate how the boy's knowledge of the way the world works is based on the traditional tales he has memorized. Although he has never been taught to read or write, he has listened carefully to every tale he has ever heard and carefully filed them away. I also like that the clever commoner is a girl, and that she is not content to just marry someone in the village and settle down. Instead, she is determined to become an apprentice sage and use the knowledge and reasoning skills that she has been developing under her father's tutelage.
This is a fun read because of the balance between action, danger, and humor. By the time we reach the end of the book, we feel as if the boy and both Alices have become our friends and we are cheering loudly for them to win and the villain(s) to lose. Perfect for middle grade readers who like fantasy adventures and cheering for the underdog.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.