“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.”
Lauren Oliver’s novel The Spindlers starts with a bang, dumping the reader right into the middle of a world that is populated with creepy creatures and where daring adventures are possible. From the opening sentence, you get the feeling that Liza is a very observant little girl, noticing the differences between the real Patrick and not-Patrick right away. Of course, as is usually the case, her parents don’t believe her, so Liza is forced to figure out how to save her little brother all by herself.
This fantasy adventure story is incredibly fast-paced, setting Liza on her journey to save her brother at the end of the very first chapter. From there, she finds her way Below, to where the spindlers (spider-like creatures who extract a child’s souls and leave in its place their eggs, which will rest in the soulless shell until they hatch, after which time the shell crumbles to dust – gruesome stuff) reside, along with, Liza soon discovers, a whole world of fantastical creatures, like talking rats, lumer-lumpen, nids, scawgs and countless other creatures who at times help and at times hamper Liza’s journey to her brother.
This was a fun story, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened. It reminded me of Gregor the Overlander and Wildwood, but it was unique enough that I didn’t think the novel was rehashing old material. I was curious to see how everything would turn out the entire way through, and while I could recognize some of the usual adventure story tropes (think of the way Alice just keeps running into trouble in the Alice in Wonderland books or movies), I was still happy to follow along and see how Liza handled those obstacles.
The Spindlers is a solid addition to this genre, and it has appeal for both boys and girls (of all ages!). As a nice little bonus, there are charming little illustrations at the start of each chapter, done by Iacopo Bruno, which help make the characters come to life in your imagination. Definitely worth checking out!