“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. In fact, he was quite, quite different.
[…] Liza knows exactly what has happened: the spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.
She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.
To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids…as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers’ nests where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests—or else her soul, too, will remain below forever.” (—from the inside flap)
I’m honestly not quite sure to make of this book. I didn’t fall utterly in love with it, but I didn’t loath it either. It was too…almost too dreamlike to have an opinion about. Actually, what it reminded me most of was Alice through the Looking Glass or The Wizard of Oz. Not as weird and insane as Alice in Wonderland, but certainly not “normal” either. The entire thing felt like a really good dream you might have—one that has its nightmare elements along with the fun ones. It’s a world with its own rules, its own system of reality, that both corresponds to and disagrees with that of the waking world. Here, rivers can whisper, hope grows on bushes, market stalls vend trinkets you lost under the bed or between the couch cushions and tree roots can be venomous snakes. Just when you think you’ve figured out how things work…a nid ball erupts into a madhouse or a beautiful woman turns into a hideous monster.
Liza is a fun character, but she felt very young to me. That is to say, she acts like your typical, middle-grade adventure heroine. She’s clever, brave, and determined. But when the author gives her thoughts or memories outside the current plot of the story, she feels far younger. She acts about twelve or thirteen, but sometimes she feels like eight or nine. More Junie B. Jones than Ella of Frell. (We’re never told exactly how old she is, or at least, I couldn’t find it.) For example, when she’s regretting all the things she never taught her brother before her chances were lost forever, we’re told:
“Liza was filled with regret. She had forgotten to tell the real Patrick, her baby brother, so many important things. For example, she had forgotten to tell him that when you reached third grade the cafeteria would try and give you celery and peanut butter with raisins on top and pass it off as dessert and how important it was not to be fooled, and instead stuff your pockets with gummy bears before school.”
Perhaps it’s all my projection here, and perhaps this passage suggests that Liza is only about nine (if she’s in the third grade), in which case her behavior isn’t odd at all. But it is inconsistent.
I’m still not entirely sure what I think of this book. I’m going to give it a three-quill rating, because it was very original and well written…but I can’t say this is one that I’ll read again or really even think I’d recommend to someone else. Unless, of course, that person thought that Alice through the Looking Glass and The Wizard of Oz are the two best books of all time, in which case The Spindlers is right up your alley.