Looking across the breakfast table one morning, twelve-year-old Liza feels dread wash over her. Although her younger brother, Patrick, appears the same, Liza knows that he is actually quite different. She is certain that the spindlers—evil, spiderlike beings—came during the night and stole his soul. And Liza is also certain that she is the only one who can rescue him.
Armed with little more than her wits and a huge talking rat for a guide, Liza descends into the dark and ominous underground to save Patrick’s soul. Her quest is far from easy: she must brave tree-snakes, the Court of Stones, and shape-shifting scawgs before facing her greatest challenge in the spindlers’ lair, where more than just Patrick’s soul is at stake. (goodreads.com)
I tried really hard not to draw comparisons between Oliver and Neil Gaiman but I couldn’t help it. There was just such a heavy hand of Coraline in THE SPINDLERS that is was hard not to. I mean, it wasn’t a bad book by any stretch of the word. THE SPINDLERS was whimsical and dark and full of adventure. But it lacked that lyrical quality that Gaiman’s work ultimately has. It was a good book, but it wasn’t great.
There was also a bit of Labyrinth in there as well, as the older sister travels into the underground to save her little brother. Only no goblin kings are present here. Just nasty spider people that eat children’s souls for breakfast. Literally.
Ultimately it’s a predictable story. You know how it’s going to end up, even with a wrench thrown into the plot that really isn’t much of a wrench. I did like the darkness that Oliver had in the story and how Liza was crawling through some truly nasty things in order to get to her brother (or his soul, rather). This was not a light story despite the fact that it’s written for children.
THE SPINDLERS is one of those stories that it’s a good enough story when you’re reading it, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression and it ends up being just okay. A good read for younger kids but something that’s not ultimately going to leave a mark on anyone. It almost felt like Oliver wanted to write older for the story for the sheer amount of dark things that were present, but she was committed to a middle grade novel and had to tone it down. In hindsight there are a lot of nasties in here, but they’re watered down and don’t leave the impression that they otherwise could have had they had a chance to flourish under more robust writing.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.