Troubador Smailholm

Released: 28/01/2020

ISBN: 9781838591656

eISBN: 9781838597504

Format: Hardback/eBook

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Smailholm

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Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for Best Overall design (Fiction)

Shh! Can you keep a secret?

In wild medieval Britain thirteen-year-old Wynn Hoppringle has a big secret of the smallest kind. She has discovered a miniature village hidden close to her family home of Smailholm Tower. When tales of merciless border raiders reach the small folk, they realise they are in danger and must seek a cure to their strange predicament. Can Wynn help her tiny friends or will the scheming King quog have other ideas? Heroes, it seems, come in all sizes.

“A spellbinding tale of adventure, magic and friendship” – V.F.Sharp, author of The Forest of Arrows

Buried Under Books

The Sentinel

Female First

Set in Scotland in 1565, Smailholm tells the story of Wynn, daughter of Laird and Lady Hoppringle, who has a very big secret. She has discovered a miniature village living under the brambles near her family home, Smailholm tower. With border raiders nearby, the small folk are in danger and need Wynn to help them break the curse that has reduced them to their current size. Wynn also faces dangers of her own - the scheming plans of her uncle who would see her sent to court to be married, which is not at all to free-spirited Wynn's liking. With the help of the moon folk, Wynn and the Smailholm secret residents set off to Rubers Law in hopes of reversing the curse. But will the Quog king or mysterious Deablin aid them on their quest, or add more hurdles to an already perilous predicament?

This book has been marketed as "The Borrowers meets The Hobbit" and I have to say, this is a very accurate tag line. Immediately, 'The Borrowers' came to mind in the minute detail of the small folks' daily life and world that the author depicts. The quest they go on is very reminiscient of 'The Hobbit' and Middle Earth. There are mountains full of gold, unnatural looking creatures (these are the quogs who may or may not be good-natured), and even hooded figures in the night. It has all the ingredients for a good adventure story and it leaves the reader satisfied on this front. I was intrigued and the quick pace helped sustain my enthusiasm.

However, there are some areas which could have been improved. Clearly Williams can write. There is some beautiful imagery interspersed throughout the novel, and the world she creates is fully believable. What I had issue with was the inconsistent syntax. While the novel is set in 1565, the author hasn't quite decided if she's writing in that style or not. In the first half of the novel, the characters seem to speak in a more old-fashioned style. For example, "I do admit in youth these walls seemed a cage to me" and the "fourth day of each week" - please just write Thursday. Deablin's passages are also, somewhat randomly, filled with thee and thy. The issue I have is not that the author has adopted this style, it's that it's inconsistent. In my opinion, words should flow seamlessly off the page. If I have to stop and decipher stuff (yes I had to work out Thursday was day 4!), it breaks the spell and wonder that is fantasy novels.

by Rebecca


I really enjoyed this book. It sucked me in fairly quickly as I am a big fan of historical fiction and fantasy. It is labeled as young adult fiction and I think that is a perfect placement. I might consider reading it or letting my 11 and 8-year-old read it except for one small part where the characters go swimming in their undergarments and then kiss. I know other than that small part they would really love the book. For me, it was an entertaining and engaging quick read. I was thankful and thrilled when I ended the book to know that a sequel is in the works. I would recommend this book.
Thanks, @netgalley for the opportunity to read this book before it was released!

by Krystle


Smailholm tells the story of 13 year old Wynn Hoppringle. She has a big secret of the smallest kind and has discovered a miniature village beneath her family home of Smailholm. With danger close by Wynn must help her tiny friends by finding a cure to the curse and join them on a journey to Rubers Law, a fire mountain, home to the scheming bat-like quogs.

I purchased the book for my niece and we read it together. We enjoyed the fast pace plot and heartwarming setting of Smailholm. The characters too were easy to like and it was exciting to go on an adventure with them. I very much look forward to reading the second book.

C.L Williams is a talented author with a bright writing future ahead. The attention to detail she has given this and the thought and care she has put into the package and all the extras makes her stand out from the rest.

My niece wears her pin and carries Smailholm around with her so she can find clues on the map.

I would highly recommend everyone to give this book a read.

by Joanne


A strong fantasy debut from a promising new author.

Smailholm is rich with all the right fantasy elements and magical peoples to ensure a captivating read. All without falling into cliched storylines.

In Wynn we have an engaging and relatable protagonist, whilst in Deablin and the king quog we have refreshingly two-dimensional antagonists.

Williams creates a page-turning pace throughout. Minor gripes aside, the story is well-edited, highly readable, and free from the dull filler content that so often plagues the fantasy genre.

This series will be one to watch.

by Roxanne


Smailholm was an engaging middle-grade fantasy that was easy to read and fun to enjoy. It is a historical fantasy with olde-worlde language in small parts. I enjoyed the setting of Scotland, the differences between the haves and the have-nots and of course the Lilliput/Borrowers context of little people in a little land.

There were two protagonists in this story, a 13-year old girl called Wynn who was noblewomen-to-be living in Smailholm Tower and then short chapter interludes from Deablin. Who or what Deablin is, is revealed during the story but it was a clever connection, even though her short interjections were sometimes a little confusing. That said, the confusion was part of the story and it did build up to answers eventually.

Wynn had found the little village, hidden under the brambles, where she was a giant and they were very small. Wynn had been getting to know these folks for a few years and they had become trusted friends. At the fore of the village people were Jimmy and Jenny. Vargo, Wynn’s dog was also a key character and a sweet addition to the story.

What starts off as an interesting story becomes one of adventure, fantastical beings and unsavoury creatures. It all made for a rather fast-paced story. There were moments of reading confusion with some of the fantasy elements but the world building came and caught me up on most questions. I found the eventual Deablin answers a bit confusing and some of the beings or spirits connected to that difficult to get into. The rest of the story kept me engaged, however.

The story finished rather openly and with some elements I want to know more about and some characters I need to know about. This was a solid debut from CL Williams and I would definitely read her work again.

by Micky


I loved this book. I love historical fiction, so it was a perfect blend of fantasy with historical elements. I found it entertaining, it was like going on a nice adventure. I would definitely recommend it.

by Umut


I loved the world building. The fact that it took place in real slash fictitious locations was fun. I also love a good map and the map this book is gorgeous. It also helps follow the story pared with the descriptive nature of the book made me feel completely immersed. The creatures in the world were also very interesting.

The story has multiple POV's, which I enjoyed. It creates a fast-paced plot. Really enjoyable read, with above average characters that have depth and lack cliches.

by Darian


This story was absolutely fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Smailholm, and all the wonderous inhabitants there! Wynn is a wonderful protagonist, and the secondary characters are delightful. There is a definite Hobbit vibe to the story (but what fantastical quest doesn’t have that), while still being its own unique story.
Perhaps because of it being an e-arc, the chapters labeled “Deablin” were difficult to understand at first. Luckily as I kept reading they began to piece together to add a fun dramatic element to the story. A few grammatical and spelling errors throughout that will hopefully have been fixed by publication.
I did not expect to enjoy this story so thoroughly! I was completely entranced. I will anxiously await the sequel!

by Maria


This book was received from the Author, and Publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

A lovely fantasy of a curse, friendship, and magical adventures. Along with captivating characters that adds a perfect place to anyone’s bookshelf.

A enchanting medieval tale comes to life with beautiful imagery. Set in wild medieval Britain, thirteen year old Anne-Wynn Hopringle, the second of 3 daughters with the first name Anne is a wonderfully fleshed out three demetional protagonist.

Wynn Hoppringle, guards an incredible secret. She has found a tiny village that is concealed under the brambles beside her family home of Smailholm Tower.
This perfectly paced middle grade ya fantasy happens to be on the boarder of Britain and Scotland. Richly atmospheric details come to life within these lovely pages.
Anne-Wynn Hopringle, the second of 3 daughters with the first name Anne,

A lovely tale of friendship with unlikely well developed captivating heroes. I was completely immersed in this creative fantasy. The author prose flows seamlessly, and the lush atmospheric magical imagery catapults you into these stunning pages.
An easy to follow plot line that has two meticulously woven stories, that comes together perfectly at the end. I absolutely loved the chapters of Deablin.
This spellbinding book that held my attention all the way through, and I am patiently waiting to read the next from this very talented author.

by Gwendalyn


I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I started reading this book - was it like the Borrowers series? I had loved that as a child, so I was looking forward to more stoies of little people in a big world. I didn't expect a curse, a love story, an adventure, and such a feisty, interesting heroine. Wynn is from an old noble family that lives in a crumbling stone tower. Her father, a twin, inherited the castle at the detriment of his twin brother, which has always rankled. Family ties are strong - though often strained. Wynn, as the daughter of a nobleman, is expected to go serve the queen as a lady-in waiting. But how can she leave her tower home? For she has a secret. A small village, complete with church, bakery, blacksmith, and miniature horses - inhabited by people who are barely bigger than mice. Because of a curse, they are small and must stay hidden. Wynn is the gentle giant girl who has befreinded them - and when disaster strikes, she is perhaps the one to save them. Or will it be the other way around? Size, it seems, is not important when it comes to being a hero.
This was a charming book, and I am looking forward to reading the others in the series!

by Jennifer


I thought this was such a great book. Once I got started it was hard to put down. I liked how this is a great mixture of historical fiction with a touch of fantasy thrown in. This book reminds me of Gulliver's travels but with a female main character. I like how Wynn is a "giant" and the town she discovers was cursed and turned into small people. I thought this story was full of adventure and I liked how it had duel points of view from Wynn and her grandmother Deablin. I can not wait for the next book to come out!

by Mary


Smailhom is such a fun Scottish history of a 13 year old darling, Wynn Hoopringle. Underneath her small home is a tiny village. She is a giant, in this world, and that proves invaluable to her new friends. Danger is in the air, and she goes to help them fight the curse and go on their journey to the fire mountain.

This reminded me so much of The Borrowers mixed with The Hobbit. A truly daring, and fun tale, sure to keep the attention of any young (Or old) child with an imagination.

The Author, C.L. Williams has such an imagination and talent with detail. It is sure to inspire any young mind, and let them get swept up In this journey.

I can’t recommend this enough!

by Smailholm


I would have loved this book when I was 10 or 11 years old. It is full of small people reminiscent of The Borrowers, and it is set in historical times and the main character is a girl. All things I enjoyed in my books back then.

For my adult self it was all just a little bit too cute, but the book was not written for me, and I am sure it will appeal greatly to its middle school readership target. I loved the idea of those little people busy in their tiny country town under the brambles. I was amused by the parents who named all three of their daughters Ann. And I enjoyed the series of adventures the little group of travellers experienced.

The book ends with a lost character or two which clearly indicates that there is another book to follow in the future.

by Phrynne


Gullivers Travels meets the Borrowers meets Alice in Wonderland meets The Hobbit

13-yo Anne-Wynn Hoppringle (otherwise known as Wynn) is the middle child to the Laird of Smailholm Tower. Adventurous and independent, she discovers a miniature village hidden in the brambles and bracken away from the tower, descendants of a forgotten curse against the clans of Smailholm. When border raiders discover the existence of the tiny folk, a small band of heroes must brave the wider world to revoke the curse and save their people. With the help of the enigmatic Moon Folk, Wynn, herself about to be shipped off to the Queen's court, and her dog Vargo join them on their adventurous quest to the fire mountain Rubers Law. But will the King of the Quogs grant their wish and release them from the curse?

Told through the eyes of Wynn and interspersed with the ramblings of lost soul Deablin, Smailholm is a lavish tale of adventure and magic. Aimed at middle grades, this has everything I would have wanted in a story as a child: Adventure, magic, strong female lead characters, friendship, mystery, moors, and the merest hints of romance. The huntress from the tiny village, Jenny, is Arrietty for the middle ages, bold as brass and strong and capable. Wynn is an every-girl that the young reader can imagine herself as: slightly awkward, a little bit clueless in her tiny form, not always brave but journeying forth regardless.

As an Aussie, it blew my mind that this is set in real places that still exist today, and it puts into perspective just how far the tiny folk have to go to save their kin.

This was a fun adventure with a slightly bittersweet open ending, that tells of tales still to come. Can't wait!

**I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley and Troubador publishing in exchange for an honest review. I have since purchased this in hardback**

by Jen S.


Gullivers Travels meets the Borrowers meets Alice in Wonderland meets The Hobbit

13-yo Anne-Wynn Hoppringle (otherwise known as Wynn) is the middle child to the Laird of Smailholm Tower. Adventurous and independent, she discovers a miniature village hidden in the brambles and bracken away from the tower, descendants of a forgotten curse against the clans of Smailholm. When border raiders discover the existence of the tiny folk, a small band of heroes must brave the wider world to revoke the curse and save their people. With the help of the enigmatic Moon Folk, Wynn, herself about to be shipped off to the Queen's court, and her dog Vargo join them on their adventurous quest to the fire mountain Rubers Law. But will the King of the Quogs grant their wish and release them from the curse?

Told through the eyes of Wynn and interspersed with the ramblings of lost soul Deablin, Smailholm is a lavish tale of adventure and magic. Aimed at middle grades, this has everything I would have wanted in a story as a child: Adventure, magic, strong female lead characters, friendship, mystery, moors, and the merest hints of romance. The huntress from the tiny village, Jenny, is Arrietty for the middle ages, bold as brass and strong and capable. Wynn is an every-girl that the young reader can imagine herself as: slightly awkward, a little bit clueless in her tiny form, not always brave but journeying forth regardless.

As an Aussie, it blew my mind that this is set in real places that still exist today, and it puts into perspective just how far the tiny folk have to go to save their kin.

This was a fun adventure with a slightly bittersweet open ending, that tells of tales still to come. Can't wait!

by Jen


If you're looking for a fantasy historical fiction book that includes Scottish lore, but is aimed at teens, look no further!
This one is perfect for young readers who want something more challenging because they feel ready to take a step up the reading ladder.

by Alexia


Smailholm by CJ Williams was so much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. All I knew walking into it was that it was a fantasy children’s story. I’d seen people talking about it and was keen to read it. I had so much fun with Anne-Wynne on her adventures in her attempt to reverse a curse making all the villagers of Smailholm tiny. Set in medieval Scotland, this tale was akin to a chidren’s version of Tolkien’s work. I loved the characters from Anne-Wynne to her tiny best friend, Jimmy, to the quog king, they were also so wonderfully written. The fantasy world building was fabulous. I couldn’t help but feel like I was right there with Wynne and her friends. Overall, this was a fun little fantasy read and I can’t wait for the second book.

by Amy


C.L. Williams

Claire Williams lives in Cheshire with her husband and children Ava and Henry. She is proud to be called a 'Clayhead' a person born in the Potteries (Stoke on Trent) and will always turn over a china cup to see where it is made. She is a huge fantasy fan and will often be found snuggled in front of the TV watching a sci-fi or fantasy movie. Smailholm is her first novel, inspired by visits to the Scottish Borders on family holidays.


Claire Williams
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