Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: MG, fairy tales retold, paranormal
Publication Date: October 2. 2012 (Harper Children’s – North America)
Source: Edelweiss Review Copy/Traded-for ARC
Summary: One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.
When Liza’s brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.
She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.
To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers’ nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests–or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.
☆: 3/5 stars – another solid MG story from Oliver!
Review: Hm. I was hoping for more out of this one, but I guess I’m satisfied with what I got. “The Spindlers” is a pretty solid young MG book that will delight anyone who loves fairy tales (and being in them) as well as heroic quests to save people. It’s a simple story, but it has a rather sinister theme underneath – that of trying to fight the lethargy that has descended over parents since the Great Recession started – and that of hope. Hopefully kids will get this theme, because it’s pretty awesome that Oliver threw that in there, and hopefully kids reading who are having a hard time at home will find some solace in it.
For me, I think the large problem was that this book was just too straight forward in its quest for Patrick (and all that comes with that). The worldbuilding and characters were top notch, but the plot just felt too easy getting from point A to point B in order to get the real Patrick back. I wanted a little bit more in terms of challenges that Liza needed to overcome in order to get Patrick back. Had that been present I think that I just generally would have enjoyed the book more, period.
The characters: My biggest beef? The Queen of the Spindlers also felt more than a bit just too stereotypically evil. She tricked Liza (saw that one coming, as it happened repeatedly in the book), was generally kind of moustache-twirlingly evil. A bit boringly so. I loved how plucky Liza was, and her rat friend was more than a bit annoying, but came through for her in the end. Patrick was lovable in the way all little brothers are. I think my favorite characters were the Nocturni – I want a whole spin-off about them. I absolutely adored them and just wanted more on them in general. The parents were so authentic it hurt, especially in the areas about the bills, and how Mom and Dad now have worry grooves in their foreheads from how tough things have become.
The worldbuilding: Absolutely gorgeous. The troglods were hilarious, and the Nocturni – well, I’ve already talked about them. I loved all of the different locales of Below, but I feel like we didn’t quite see them all as we quite have could. There was telling in more places than actually seeing, and that was a bit disappointing. But this happens sometimes, so I just tried to roll with it. It wasn’t something that annoyed me endlessly but it still could have been better.
Final verdict? This one is going to be great for the young MG crowd, but older MG readers might want a bit more out of this book like I did. “The Spindlers” is out tomorrow in North America through Harper Children’s, so definitely be sure to check it out if just for those Nocturni alone!