Saturday, August 14, 2021

Book Review: The Spiderwick Chronicles

There are quite a few children's books and young adult books that came out while I was in college and working on my doctorate that I never found the time to read. One such series was The Spiderwick Chronicles. In reality, I'd heard of the books, but I wasn't really aware of the series until the movie came out. Since moving back to Utah, I've been listening to books on CD when I travel to and from work. So, rather than read these books, I listened to audio recordings. The first five books were read by Mark Hamill. The three "beyond" books were read by Andrew McCarthy.

My verdict: I didn't realize that these books were so short. The first four books ended right when it seemed like the action was just getting going. (No wonder they turned all five into a single movie.) The characterization and world building also felt like the authors were just scratching the surface. I guess they can't get too deep, considering the target age group. The last book in the main series wrapped things up nicely, but also left an opening for future installments. So it was more than a bit jarring when the "beyond" books switched to a completely new set of characters. The "beyond" books just weren't as compelling. For one thing, there is a running gag that you shouldn't make promises to fairies because they'll hold you accountable. The main character constantly makes promises to fairies and then fails to keep them. This might be acceptable if they were onerous tasks, but they're not. In one case, he just has to give a fairy creature some food and he never does. Ultimately it feels like these promises are put off so that they can be used as a plot point later on, not because failing to keep promises is a character flaw. Also, I found it frustrating that the final book was called "The Wyrm King" but the term "wyrm king" was only used once, and almost at the end of the book. The rest of the time they called it a "dragon king" or a "hydra".[1]

Mark Hamill did a great job as a reader (though some of his voices sounded suspiciously like Yoda). Andrew McCarthy wasn't as great: his New Jersey accent frequently sneaks through (which is inappropriate since the characters are in Florida); he fails to give the characters different voices (except in a few cases where it's readily apparent that the differences were created in post-production); and he frequently fails to appropriately convey the emotions that the characters are experiencing.


[1] The idea of a fairy creature equivalent to a rat king is pretty interesting, though.

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