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.

Goblin Secrets is the 2012 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature.

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN: 1442427264
ISBN-13: 9781442427266
Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12
List price: $16.99

Signed and personalized copies are available from Bear Pond Books.

Unsigned copies can be purchased in all the usual ways from IndieBound, Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.


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.
– Citation by the Judges of the National Book Award

“It was hard to stop reading Goblin Secrets, and I didn’t want the book to end! The author’s imagination is both huge and original, taking us to a truly new place, rich with lively, vivid scenes, fascinating people, and marvelous inventions. He doesn’t explain things, yet everything is clear. And he tells his fast-paced story in language that’s a pleasure in itself — subtle, tricky, funny, beautiful. More, please, Will Alexander!”
– Ursula K. Le Guin, author of A Wizard of Earthsea

“Goblin Secrets is a knockout. It’s an original, owing absolutely nothing to Tolkien, or to any of his descendants, disciples or imitators. As a lifelong sucker for theatre and books about theatre, I don’t know a fantasy novel that’s used performing and maskmaking in just that way.”
– Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn

“Alexander’s world, blending steampunk and witchy magic, is impressively convincing and evocative in its oddities. Though highly textured, it’s tightly woven and reassuringly seamless. The result is wryly humorous and bearably yet excitingly menacing: Even while much is left unexplained, Rownie’s triumph is both gripping and tantalizing.”
– Kirkus, Starred Review

“Goblin Secrets is a clockwork gem of a book. I became deeply enmeshed in the gears of Rownie’s story, and found such delight in wandering the strange, twisty, mysterious streets of Zombay.”
– Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief

“Goblin Secrets includes all my favorite things: mystery, magic, and plenty of thrills, a goblin theatrical troupe, a beautifully realized fantasy world, and an orphan boy searching for his lost brother.”
– Delia Sherman, author of The Freedom Maze

“There are books that make you feel good for having read them. Not virtuous or well-behaved, but good. More whole-hearted, more brave, more likely to look at a stranger and see the fine face beneath the mask of their unfamiliarity. Goblin Secrets, William Alexander’s debut novel, is just such a book… It is also unusual, unsettling, and written with a very spirited grace.”
– Fantasy Matters

Goblin Secrets Audiobook, read by the author, on: