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Monday, March 24, 2014

A Fantasy Too Ordinary

Oliver, Lauren  (2012) The Spindlers  New York:  Harper.

     Liza wakes up one morning to discover that her annoying but nonetheless beloved little brother has been somehow been replaced by an evil lookalike.  She vows to find out where he has been taken and to get him back.   Shortly she finds herself in a subterranean world trying to find the evil Spindlers who have taken him.  With the help of a rat named Mirabella, Liza sets off on an adventure that involves, peril, desperation, betrayal, and ultimately triumph.  Sounds pretty good, huh?
     Yeah, the book is fine, really.  The world Oliver creates is interesting.  The plot is interesting, as are the characters.  But here is the thing -- the world it creates is different, but surprisingly ordinary.  Creatures in the underground world steal scraps and socks and glasses and keys from the world above and then haggle and scrape to sell them in an open market that reminds me of the local Swap-O-Rama.  Mirabella the rat wears scraps of fabric and paper so she can make herself feel elegant, but the effect is sorry and depressing.  There are dangers here, but they are not breathtaking in scope.  All in all the world created in this book has the feel of a bargain basement world.  I am not saying that all of fantasy has to be beautifully dressed princesses and breathtaking vistas, but I would argue that there has to be amazement and wonder.  When I read Lord of the Rings, I want to go to Middle Earth and have a look around.  I wish to visit Narnia, and Ender's Battle School, and even places like Victoria Roth's Insurgent Chicago and the worlds of Zita the Space Girl.  But the world in Spindlers seems drab and dirty and full of anxiety but no wonder or amazement. 
     It is probably best for fifth and up.  I wouldn't tell you not to buy this book, but I wouldn't tell you to go out of your way to buy it either.  Check it out from the library, read the first two chapters, and see if you think I am right about this. 
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