Monday, February 15, 2010

Curse of the Spider King

Middle-school teacher Wayne Thomas Batson delivers another incredible, fast-paced fantasy for teens in Curse of the Spider King. Written with author, youth pastor and recording artist, Christopher Hopper, Curse of the Spider King follows the lives of seven elven lords and ladies who were abandoned as babies on Earth. Although they were adopted and raised by human parents, as they approach the age of thirteen, they begin to realize they have unusual powers. Elven sentinels were sent from their home world of Allyra to search out and protect the seven children (now teens) on Earth. The sentinels are not the only characters interested in finding the teens. The Spider King, long at war with the elves of Allyra, wants the noble elves found and killed.

The search for the teens covers Maryland, New York, North Carolina, California, France and Scotland. Each teen is introduced separately, and the race to identify the teen and explain his heritage before the Spider King's forces destroy them is always suspenseful. Each teen is given The History of Berinfell, and we read chapters of it with them. (These chapters are printed on faded gray pages, making them easier to identify.) We learn of the enmity between the spiders and the elves, and we get a glimpse into each lost teens' personality, family background and circumstances.

The sentinels must find the elven children, convince them of their heritage and persuade them to travel through a portal from Earth to Allyra, leaving their homes behind forever. The fate of the race of elves depends on the choices of the teens, and eventually they agree to help. The journey to the last open portal is marked with danger, intrigue and treachery, and the teens and their sentinels barely escape in time.

What I Like: Batson and Hopper do a great job with characterization. The teens are all different, interesting and unique, and their stories are compelling. Most readers will find at least one character to relate to, and will care about the fate of all of them. It is obvious Batson is a teacher--he writes authentic and funny characters and dialogue.

The elves serve Ellos, (the God figure), and must use his Word to defeat some of their enemies. The Word is Scripture, directly quoted, but not referenced. (For example, "Light has come into the world and darkness has not overcome it.") Some of the children have also been raised in Christian homes and Christian values are reflected.

The fantasy and adventure elements are very well-written. It is fun to read about seven different characters. Also, the shift between chapters about present-day Earth and chapters about ancient Allyra captures and holds the readers' attention.

What I Dislike: I like everything about this book. However, the title and cover make the book seem much more scary than it actually is. Although the books are filled with suspense, and I would not want to meet one of the spiders, Batson and Hopper do a good job of focusing attention and description on the children, sentinels and other positive forces. While some of the children have rough lives and there are battles and blood, they are not overly described or unnecessarily gory.

Overall Rating: Excellent!

Age Appeal: 8-12, but I would say 10 and up, due to complex plot and some battle scenes. Teenagers will also enjoy this book.

Publisher Info: Thomas Nelson, 2009; ISBN: 978-1-4003-1505-5; Hardcover, $14.99

Buy it Now at for $10.99

OR Buy it at for $10.19.

Read our review of Wayne Thomas Batson's book, The Door Within here.

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