I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing the book “Goldeline” by Jimmy Cajoleas! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“In the wild, free woods of the Hinterlands, where magic is as real as stories are, there lives a girl named Goldeline. Goldeline has hair as white as summer snow and gold-flecked eyes, and she travels from camp to camp with Gruff and his bandits, getting by on the things they steal from carriages that pass through the woods.
But someone is after Goldeline. The Preacher—the man who wants to cleanse the Hinterlands of anyone who’s different, the man who turned the Townies against Goldeline’s momma for being a witch—thinks that Goldeline must be a witch, too.
Now Goldeline will have to summon all the courage and magic she got from her momma to escape the Preacher, save her friends, and, maybe, if she’s lucky, find a place to call home.”
Plot development: 3 out of 5
I mostly enjoyed the plot overall. It’s a bit simple in the sense that Goldeline’s main mission is to find the fabled Half-Moon Inn where, apparently, the Preacher can’t get to her and she can be safe with her sort-of adoptive family, which is a group of thieves led by Gruff, a close friend of Goldeline’s mother. Unfortunately for her, many things go wrong, including the deaths of her closest companions (Gruff included), and she ends up also gaining a friend of sorts in Tommy, who she must be on the run with. I do like how the main plot did resolve itself, save for the ending. Not only did I think the ending was out of place for Goldeline to run away from the new home she had with Tommy, but I also think it seemed weird that the rest of society around her tried to force ‘The Book’ and its influences on her, despite knowing, at that point in the book, that the Preacher who believed in ‘The Book’ and all literally attempted to kill her and was far from a good person.
I also enjoyed the plot twists of how some things in Goldeline’s plans went wrong, as well as how it’s revealed that the Preacher was actually Goldeline’s biological father (or at least it’s implied). I won’t elaborate too much here due to more major spoilers otherwise, but those twists were well-written and executed.
Worldbuilding development: 3 out of 5
A lot of the worldbuilding is slowly fed to the reader throughout the book, through Goldeline’s narration. Given that this comes from a child’s perspective, it’s spoken to the reader in child-like terms. However, it helps make it understandable for most of the general worldbuilding, including the religious elements associated with the Preacher and how Goldeline’s mother’s magic differs from that.
I would have liked to see more variety in how people viewed Goldeline’s mother’s magic, as well as how other religious people acted in the book. Sure, we have a Mercy Sister (I’m guessing here that is a nickname for a nun-like figure) who is a very minor character and is much kinder than the Preacher, but a lot of the magic people that the Preacher might oppose (like Bobba, Zed, etc.) are actually quite malevolent throughout the book. It would have been nice to see more potential ‘good’ figures in the book that use magic other than Goldeline’s mother (and Goldeline, depending on whether you like her or not) to show more different types of people within the same type of magic use or religion-following spectrum.
Other than the magic and religion bits, I hoped there would be more development of Goldeline as the “Ghost Girl of the Woods,” other than being used by the thieves as a ploy to rob people easier. I was hoping she’d use that identity to her advantage to, perhaps, keep her friend Tommy and herself safe in the woods. However, she never really capitalizes on it, which is disappointing to me as a reader.
Character development: 3 out of 5
There was not a lot of information on how Goldeline’s mother had magic in the first place, as much of her character development went towards the reveal that the Preacher was Goldeline’s father. Goldeline does narrate much of what she and her mother used to do together when the mother was alive, but we don’t know much of the mother individually otherwise. However, the book does capitalize well on pointing out how much Goldeline does miss her mother, and it helps me as a reader to sympathize with her.
Other than her bond with her mother, I liked how Goldeline had her own bits of moral ambiguity as she did all she did in the book (including but not limited to being the “Ghost Girl of the Woods” to help her fellow thieves rob people, even if it was to stay alive, temporarily trick Tommy into believing she was an angel to gain his trust, etc.). It gave her a development throughout the book as she struggled with whether she was still a ‘good’ person despite all these things she did, or if she was really ‘bad’ like how the Preacher condemns her as.
As for Tommy, I didn’t like him at first, but grew to sympathize with him. He’s separated from the home he knows, then gets tricked into thinking he’s with an angel until he finds out who Goldeline really is, justifiably is angry about it, but then he’s put in danger again due to simply hanging out with her. I don’t blame him for being angry or frustrated about the situation at times, given all of this happening to him.
I do like the development of the Preacher as a villain, with his enrapturing charisma to bend the townspeople to his doing. I do think his being spurned by Goldeline’s mother was a shallow reason to condemn her and hunt down Goldeline, however, and I wish there was more than what was just given in the book for his backstory.