Okay, I’ve finished Curse of the Spider King. I may be checking under my bed for chubby black spiders with red legs for the next couple of weeks.
Bottom Line, at the Top: I liked this book. Batson and Hopper have created a compelling story with interesting characters and strong themes of faith, courage, and friendship. Though targeted at younger teens, I think it holds appeal for readers of all ages.
N-QB3: This being the first story in a series, the authors have to spend some time getting the pieces onto the chessboard. In some ways, Curse of the Spider King reads like an extended prelude. We meet the heroes and villains and watch them make their way to Allyra, getting a fair bit of backstory along the way about who these people are, where they came from, and why we should care. I don’t mind that, and there’s plenty of white-knuckled action as things move along, but I ended with the feeling that the real meat of the story was yet to come.
Teen Titans, GO!: The tale of orphan misfits who are hidden royalty and/or super beings with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men is familiar, but it’s managed to maintain its appeal for centuries. The feeling that nobody really understands us, that some malevolent force marooned us with these people, and that a higher destiny awaits us, somehow, sometime, resonates with teens and with adults who remember being teens. To their credit, Batson and Hopper’s heroes and heroines don’t wallow in self-pity or languish the days away waiting for their kingdom to come. They keep their chins up and muddle through. Some of them have great relationships with their adoptive parents they don’t want to abandon.
The battle scene at the end where the young Lords begin to realize their latent power and accept their role in the war thrust upon them is a lot of fun, as is the transformation of their Elvish protectors from mild-mannered librarians and the like into formidable warriors.
I Got in Through the Wardrobe, in the Spare Room: There’s a strong echo of The Chronicles of Narnia here, and C.S. Lewis’ classic series is given several direct tips of the hat. We have two worlds, linked by a mystical portal and other connections, both physical and spiritual. Two kingdoms are at war, with evil ascendant. Seemingly ordinary children have a prophetic royal destiny. Myth in one world comes to life in another. That said, Batson and Hopper have created a unique setting with its own rules. Allyra is not Narnia, but there’s definitely a kinship, as both draw on classic themes of heroic literature.
The same God rules both worlds, but as in Narnia, he goes by a different name in Allyra. I think it’s pretty cool that the connection comes through in conversation among inhabitants of both worlds, who are clearly quoting the same Scripture.
Once More Into the Breach, Dear Friends: One of the strongest themes in this story is the value of self-sacrifice. The Elves take horrendous casualties in their effort to protect their young Lords, and the children, despite their confusion and reservations, offer their own lives in return. The people of Berinfell know that freedom, and survival, aren’t free, and they pay the price willingly and courageously.
Coming Attractions: I’m looking forward to seeing our young heroes develop their special abilities and leadership skills in the next installment of this series. I’m also interested to see how they integrate into this strange, new culture they suddenly find themselves part of. Finally, there is a hint that this war was, in part, brought on by past misdeeds of the Elvish people, and I’m curious to see where Batson and Hopper go with that thread, as it implies their foes may not be one-dimensionally evil or irredeemable.
Oh, and there’s a lot of damaged real-estate and bodies scattered across the battlefield back on Earth. Will we human beings remain blissfully ignorant, or will the fate of Allyra be intertwined with our own?
For more sticky questions and intricately-woven answers, please visit the other fine sites on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour:
Wayne Thomas Batson’s blog – http://enterthedoorwithin.blogspot.com/
Christopher Hopper’s Web site – http://www.christopherhopper.com/
The Berinfell Prophecies Web site – http://www.heedtheprophecies.com/
>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<