CSFF Tour – Curse of the Spider King, Day 2

Today I’m posting Part 1 of a review of the CSFF Blog Tour’s November feature, Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. Often times I will take a day to highlight the author(s), but Wayne and Christopher are hardly strangers to CSFF. Both are members and have participated from time to time—Wayne, most recently in the September tour for Donita Paul’s book The Vanishing Sculptor. In addition, I interviewed Christopher for the Fantasy Fiction West Coast Tour a couple years ago.

Speaking of interviews, James Somers posted his exchange with Wayne (and a very cool sword fighting picture) as part of the tour while Ryan Heart has an interview with BOTH authors. Donita Paul even posted an interview of Wayne interviewing himself! 😉

But on to the review.

The Story. Curse of the Spider King is an ambitious tale featuring not one, not two, but seven principle characters—apparently “average” twelve year olds. Except they’re not.

Each of them has a number of things in common, the most important being that a stalker intrudes in their otherwise ordinary lives. Well, “ordinary” doesn’t describe them quite right because another thing these pre-teens have in common is that they are beginning to develop skills, abilities, talent they didn’t have before.

Some also encounter a kind, bookish adult who befriends them and gives them a leatherbound tome entitled The History of Berinfell. Amazingly, the book, under certain conditions, has the ability to create a visual representation of the scenes it narrates.

As the stalkers (yes, there is more than one) close in, the young people each learn that more is at stake than their own lives. They must make a decision that will affect them for all time, for good or for ill, and they must do so for the sake of others—some in a world they do not know, some they care about and love.

Strengths. The characters! I was absolutely stunned by how real these characters felt. I taught seventh and eighth graders for years, and I felt as if in the pages of this book, I was meeting some of my students.

Not only did they come across as believable and authentic, they seemed unique from each other. One was musically gifted, another an athlete. One was picked on and a bit of a nerd, while another was a bully. One came from a close, loving family, and another felt as if he’d been abandoned because his parents favored his younger brother. Each of the stories was well developed, interesting, true to life, and unlike any of the others. These kids came alive on the page.

The story is also a strength. Not only were each of the kids different from each other, the things that happened to them, while similar in some instances, were not predictably repetitious. Consequently, I found myself on the edge of my seat more often than not.

The action kept me engaged and the characters made me care—a great combination in a book.

I’ll have more to say tomorrow, but I hope you reserve some time this week to see what others participating in the CSFF Tour have to say (by the way, there’s a second tour underway this week as well, this one hosted by Mama Buzz).

Also, check out The Berinfell Prophecies Web site for more information about the book, forums, contest, and authors.

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