The Curse of the Spider-riders, by Michael Dane

I remember watching “Arthur and the Invisibles” with my cousin years ago, and somehow this is what I expected to find, maybe because of the cover, the people/fairy/insect interaction suggested by the title, the action/magic/fun hinted at by the blurb… but boy was I wrong! “The Curse of the Spider-riders” is so much better. The action is there, definitely there, loads of it and very well executed, the first few pages will get any 8 to 12 year old snickering and hook them in as surely as “Round the Twist” by Paul Jennings. The writing is punchy and oozes with personality. The pace is perfect for even reluctant young readers, keeping them on their toes and turning pages. My only concern might be the eye dialect used for a very few character’s speech at the beginning. There isn’t much of it, but it might be a little hard to read for the younger MG crowd. But that’s really a very minor issue.

The plot is interesting, with multiple parties fighting over the same thing, mortal threats everywhere, and of course a traitor that we have to figure out. The personalities of all the multiple characters are well marked and the interactions are full of playful banter. I love that Jakoby, the hero of the novel, doesn’t have the strength, nor the magic of the other characters, and very early on it is his smarts that are highlighted. The motif of using your mind, rather than strength runs throughout the book which is a great message to vehicle. I highly recommend “The Curse of the Spider-riders” for middle grade readers that love adventure, nature, and a little fright.

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