Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Curse of the Spider King

Title: Curse of the Spider King
Series: The Berinfell Prophecies #1
Authors: Wayne Thomas Batson & Christopher Hopper
Genre: Teen (13-16) Alternate Reality/Fantasy

Excerpt from “Eight-Hundred-Year Echoes,” Chapter 1 of Curse of the Spider King:

Concealed in a grove of alder trees, two cloaked figures waited; their whispered voices lost in the soft rustle of wind-stirred leaves.

“Commander, I had forgotten how brilliant the moon is.”

“I know, Brynn,” the burly warrior replied, absently rubbing a whitish furrow on his cheek, one of many scars on his face and neck. “Since we are allowed only rare views . . . I, too, drink it in.” He sighed.

“How many hundreds of years since we could gaze our fill?”

“Too many,” he said, more than a hint of bitterness in his tone.

The waited, not ten paces away from the flat side of a massive boulder. Beyond that, the silver moonlight shone down on a clearing framed by trees. It was a haunting view of their once glorious city, now in ruins.

Suddenly, the sheer face of stone radiated a dazzling blue light. The two crouched lower beneath the trees. Brynn raised her bow and drew the bowstring back to the feathery red sideburn near her right ear.

“Hold,” whispered the leader. “I it is the enemy, we are done.”

Seven Elven lords raised as human on earth discover new gifts, real identities, and an otherworldly war over their lives.

The Craft: Curse of the Spider King is one of the hardest types of books to review. Not because there is much wrong with the writing, but because there is so little wrong.

Oh, Curse of the Spider King has quite a bit of point-of-view shifting and hopping from head to head within a scene. But beyond that, the book is clean and error-free. It pulls off the difficult tasks of creating a huge but memorable cast of characters (there’s seven principles to start with) and implementing large chunks of backstory without breaking flow. The premise is intriguing, the tension builds nicely, and humor glues it altogether.

Yes, the craft is good. So why is it so hard to review? Because for all the things it does right, something is missing—the spark that turns a good story into a great one. So while there is nothing for me to criticize per se (always a good thing), a craving remains and the craft falls inexplicably short.

The Content: The content of Curse of the Spider King mirrors the craft. It is clean: The details of the violence are kept to a minimum as a whole; the supernatural is credited to non-human characters, and themes of courage, identity, and responsibility are threaded throughout with some minor references to God and spiritual warfare (something I expect to grow in prominence in the next book).

Yet at the same time, the content is unremarkable, lacking the fresh and often challenging perspective of the spiritual that makes Christian speculative works stand out. The result is that the content, like the craft, is good and yet in many way unremarkable.

Summary: Though somewhat less than inspiring or deeply memorable, Curse of the Spider King still remains an easy-to-read and very fun fantasy that will connect with many readers. A recommended light read for tweens, teens, and some adults.

Rating: Craft—4, Content—3, Overall—3.8 out of 5 stars

Interesting in hearing about book two, Venom and Song, as well? Click here.
Find Curse of the Spider King and other recommended teen books at my Amazon affliate bookstore, Words of Whimsy.


Amy Browning said...

Nice review. I actually got an interview with Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. They are SO fun! If you want, you can check it out at my blog:

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Amy's interview is great.

Chawna, I think this was written in the omniscient voice, not the close third we see so often--a wise choice with such a big cast of characters.

It was an easy read, but I didn't find it light at all. I thought there was the introduction of some very important themes, not the least of which was self-sacrifice.