Lauren Oliver’s latest middle-grade novel takes us into a world that is as dangerous as it is fascinating.
The Spindlers follows Liza as she travels through an underground world to save her brother Patrick’s soul from the Spindlers, spider-like creatures. After trying to get help from her parents, who are too busy with their own “adult” problems to really listen to her, Liza enters the world through her basement and immediately meets a rat named Mirabella. Though they start out suspicious of one another, Liza and Mirabella form an uneasy partnership when the rat agrees to take Liza to the Spindler nests.
As we journey with the pair, we experience a fantastic underground world that is very dangerous. In addition to animals from the above world, Oliver created a variety of creatures that populate her world below, such as the Troglods, who run a market, the Lumer-Lumpen, a type of glowworm, and the Nids, who are like Hobbits, but with red mustaches and beards. With the addition of each creature comes added danger as the constant threat of the Spindlers causes the world to be segregated and the population is very suspicious of each other. And, naturally, not all of the creatures are friendly. The atmosphere is dark and creepy–comparisons to Gaiman’s Coraline are right on.
Even though this is a quicker, less emotionally draining read than Oliver’s YA titles, the characters are very well developed. You feel Liza’s desperation as she searches for her brother’s soul. When Mirabella admits to never receiving a hug, the longing and loneliness behind her sometimes brusque manner are evident. Even the creepy creatures, like the Spindlers, are more than just evil beings scooting through the world below.
The middle-grade level of the text makes the plot a little more simplistic than what one would find in a YA novel, but that is to be expected. Even with the less-involved storyline, even is going on to keep you intrigued and engaged until the story ends.
The Spindlers was an excellent read for anyone who enjoys fantasy, especially the middle-grade readers the books was geared toward. It releases in September 2012.