CSFF Blog Tour – Curse of the Spider King, Day 3

Review, Part 2 of Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper.

More Strengths. I wanted to mention a couple other things I really enjoyed about this book—primarily things important to writers and less so to readers.

First, I thought Wayne and Christopher created an incredible mood through their writing, evoking tangible creepiness, even fear. Some of this was accomplished by creating such diabolical creatures as Wisps, so that even “friends” couldn’t be trusted completely.

Another means of creating this mood was through brilliant foreshadowing. How many times did a character nonchalantly brush aside a spider web or did a window crack spider-web across the pane? How could a reader not anticipate the presence of creeping evil, given such hints and suggestions?

A second thing I really liked was the hand-copied history book that showed scenes to a select few, as if the readers were actually there. I thought this device was a brilliant way to insert flashbacks. It gave a feel of mystery and magic, made the backstory interesting, even exciting, and promised more of the same as the story moved the protagonists toward the fantasy world.

Weaknesses. There aren’t many, in my opinion, and the ones I noticed were again something another writer might think about but would probably not stand out to the average reader.

The first problem—and it was a problem for me at first—was the host of characters. One of my pet peeves is books that have so many point-of-view characters, the reader has no one to root for. I was feeling similarly peevish at the beginning of Curse until I realized what tied all the young people together. From that point on, I cheered for the group—or actually for any particular individual who was a member of that group.

Still, I easily mixed the characters up. I did not wish to slow my reading at the beginning of a point of view switch to consult the chart at the beginning of the book that tells who everyone is. Within a page or two I was back into the new character’s world … until the characters came together. Then my confusion was more noticeable and costly.

This “many characters” mix-up was exacerbated by the fact that a number of the names were similar—Tommy and Johnny and Jimmy and Jett, Kat and Kiri Lee. Autumn was the only one with a name that easily identified her.

A second weakness, from my perspective, was the first chapter, which was actually a prologue. The action occurs in the fantasy world, but the authors missed a chance to anchor the readers by clearly revealing the elfin connection. Here’s the opening:

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?”

Clearly this scene is occurring in the fantasy world, but why hide the fact that these are elves? That point, along with the fact that I only learned two paragraphs later Brynn was female, and that the whole conversation smacked of a “As you know, Bob” exchange for the sake of the readers, not the characters, made this opening irritating.

I didn’t know these people, didn’t understand what they were doing or why, didn’t believe the story was about them because chapter two created a completely different world, so I felt those opening pages were superfluous. Actually, I still think so. At any rate, I didn’t retain anything in those first pages. For me, the story started with chapter 2.

Recommendation. There were a couple other writerly things like the last point, but from the moment I accepted the seven protagonists as a collective, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It was fast paced without feeling reckless. The characters were well-developed and interesting. I felt for each one of them, in different ways.

For young adult readers who enjoy fantasy, this is a Must Read. For other fantasy lovers, I highly recommend Curse of the Spider King. For readers who want a good adventure story, I highly recommend this book as well. In other words, you’ll be richer for having read the book.

Don’t forget to take a look at what other blog participants are saying. John Otte has some divergents view from mine, so you might want to see what he’s saying.

5 Comments

  1. Wow, about the prologue chapter…

    {sigh} I can’t even go there. But let’s just say that neither CH or myself really wanted a prologue.

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  2. Great coverage, Rebecca. I agree with all of you points. Definitely a MUST READ for the YA market. My kids are trying to get their grandparents to read the book, and I think they’ll succeed!

    Oh, and I finally got my 3rd post up!

    Wayne … that’s interesting that you and Christ didn’t want a prologue, but (I assume) the publisher did. That adds an interesting twist to the “prologue” debate!

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  3. Editors really shouldn’t mess with the contents of a book of fiction. Perhaps they should write their own book – that might be interesting. I would invite readers to contrast that opening with the opening of my just released Angela 1: Starting Over. It has a manageable number of characters, distinctive names for all, consistent point of view, and no prologue. I would love to hear everyone’s comments. To know more about the book, just click on my website.

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  4. Wayne, I think the key point is, the book succeeds anyway. One reason it’s important to mention these things is so that potential readers know they should hold on and keep going even if they read the first page and think they might not want to read further.

    The fantasy that really spurred me to write was the Thomas Covenant series, but I would never have gotten past the first few chapters of book one if a friend hadn’t told me to keep going.

    Besides, your fans won’t care. They’ll keep reading because they already trust you as a writer.

    I don’t agree with David, however. Most of the time I think editors enhance our work, and we writers need to be willing to listen. I’m sure it’s hard to know if it’s time to hold fast to the original vision or to say, You’re the professional and I’ll do it your way.

    Robert, thanks for your feedback. Your three posts are excellent! We have so much good blog material in this tour! Wow!

    Becky

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  5. […] Story. This second in the Berinfell Prophecies continues the story where Curse of the Spider King ended. The young elven lords, three teenage girls and four teenage boys, newly arrived from earth, […]

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