Sunday, December 26, 2010
Book Review: “The Spiderwick Chronicles, Vol. 2: The Seeing Stone" by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (2003)
In the second entry to the Spiderwick Chronicles, we begin to see a darker, scarier side to the realm of the fae, as well as the darker side of our hero, Jared Grace. In Volume 1, he was largely shy and reserved. In Volume 2, we begin to see the first hints of his anger and rage. He's obviously hurting; his parents are newly divorced, his dad lives on the other side of the continent, and his mother still believes him to be responsible for the dangerous and mean-spirited "pranks" of the brownie-turned-boggart Thimbletack. He's not doing well at school, either. All that frustration and helplessness must (and does) find a release.
After Jared's identical twin brother Simon is spirited away by an invisible band of goblins, Thimbletack tells Jared that he knows a way to help Jared see the fae: his Uncle Arthur's seeing-stone.
Thimbletack leads the boy to the workshop where the stone resides, but refuses to give it to Jared until he makes a promise not to use it improperly, or show it to anyone else, and to return it safely when he's done. Frustrated at the brownie's refusal to cooperate while his brother may be in mortal danger, Jared attacks the little man and takes the stone from him by force, setting in motion a terrible chain of events.
I liked the construction of this book; it's very taut and exciting, with almost no unnecessary elements. Everything leads quickly and precisely to a satisfying conclusion. It's a very satisfying read.
I was a little shocked (in a good way) by the story's brutal honesty; particularly with regards to the fate of Simon's cat. I feel that a lot of authors, particularly those writing for young adults, are afraid to allow characters to fail or come to bad ends. Especially good or innocent characters.
...But I feel that allowing the unfairness and capriciousness of real life to bleed into the text allows for a more powerful effect when the heroes do eventually triumph, because their victory was never guaranteed.