Monday, February 8, 2010

Curse of the Spider King: A Review

Allyra is lost. 800 years ago, the Spider King’s forces swept in and destroyed the seven Elven Lords and their children. Driven into hiding, the elves have all but given up hope that they will ever be able to regain their homeland. Without the Elven Lords, what can they do? But then, there are stirrings in a distant land. Hints that perhaps the heirs of the lords yet live come from another world—Earth. Sentinels and Dreadnaughts—elite warriors of the elves—set out to find their lost lords before the enemy can.

Meanwhile, on Earth, only thirteen years have passed for the unknowing heirs of the Allyrian thrones. As far as the seven teens know, they are perfectly ordinary humans. Until dark creatures begin to stalk their footsteps and strange powers manifest themselves in startling ways and everything they know is turned upside down. Then, they must band together with their elven guardians in a desperate race to return to the homeland they never knew.

In this intriguing tale that turns portal fantasy inside out, Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper manage to weave their different writing styles together into a smooth tapestry of story. There are a few knots in the weaving—minor grammatical errors or not-quite-explained plot points—but they do little to detract from the whole picture. Since I have read all of both Batson and Hopper’s books, I was curious to see how they managed to mesh their writing. I was pleasantly surprised. The weakness of one writer was effectively balanced by the strength of the others. Batson seems to lean toward exaggerated characters in his writing while Hopper’s characters tend to be understated to the extent that it is difficult to tell them apart. Combined, we have an excellent cast, each with their own quirks and foibles but distinct without being exaggerated.

As for the story itself—I found it a bit slow to get started in some ways though the tension was set from the beginning. The two characters that the book stayed with the most, I found least appealing though still interesting. Because of the large cast, we often leave a character for long stretches of the book and can almost forget about their existence—almost. That said, I found this book an enjoyable, if light, read and look forward to finding out what happens next in the sequel Venom and Song. A second reading makes one realize how much foreshadowing the authors wove into the early chapters. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys lighthearted fantasy with deeper themes but especially to those of Junior High age.

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