‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black ****

I first heard of ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ some years ago, but it has taken the watching of a video on Booktube – in which Little Book Owl has the most beautiful edition of the collected series – for me to get around to reading it.  Rather than write separate yet similar reviews for each book in the series, I thought it would be a good idea to amalgamate them into one rather long critique.

Artwork from ‘The Ironwood Tree’

Throughout the entire series, I absolutely adored the beautiful illustrations and cover designs, and I loved the way in which the tale was introduced by way of two letters – the first from one of the authors, Holly Black, and the second purported to have been written by the Grace children, the protagonists of the series.  I was expecting to find myself reading something similar to Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ books (and I must admit that I was hoping for such a series too).  Whilst ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ books are not as witty or well written as the aforementioned, they are just as readable and creative.

The first book in The Spiderwick Chronicles is The Field Guide.  I cannot help but fall for books with chapter titles which begin ‘In which…’, so that was a major point in the book’s favour at the outset.  The three Grace children – Mallory and her younger twin brothers, Simon and Jared – have moved with their mother into their Great-Great-Aunt Lucinda’s house following their parents’ divorce.  In the first book, they find a secret library within the house, and uncover ‘The Field Guide’ – an informative book which tells them all about faeries and the magic world.

Throughout all of the books in the series, the authors set the scene well and build atmosphere marvellously.  They have given great consideration to the pace of the stories, and each is very difficult to put down.  By the end of the first book, I was longing to know what would happen next, and was so pleased to acquire the rest of the series so that I could read it soon afterwards.

The second book is entitled The Seeing Stone, and in it, young Simon goes missing, prompting a search by his siblings.  I liked the way in which, from one book to the next, DiTerlizzi and Black recapped the important details from the previous tale at the outset.  This book particularly was incredibly inventive, and I must admit I did find their goblins rather creepy.  They were far from the little devious men which I was used to from Blyton’s books.  In this novel particularly, I very much enjoyed the element of not quite knowing what was going to happen next.  The plotlines are woven cleverly.

A beautiful illustration from the series

I liked the way in which, in all the books, the children were made to work together, despite their occasional dislike and mistrust of one another.  In the third tale, Lucinda’s Secret, the children get to meet their aforementioned Great-Great-Aunt Lucinda, who is a wonderfully eccentric character.  I found this tale a lot darker than the previous two, and some of the elements which DiTerlizzi and Black touch upon would probably have scared me when I was younger.

The fourth book, The Ironwood Tree, was my least favourite of ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’, despite its beautiful cover (see the picture above).  The pace and storyline of the tale did improve as it went along, but it did not quite match up to the rest of the series for me, both in terms of its plot and characterisation.

I am pleased to say that the final book in the series, The Wrath of Mulgarath, improved dramatically, and it is fair to say that I very much enjoyed ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ overall.  The ending to the series was wonderfully thought out, and I very much liked the slightly extended length of the book, which tied up all of the loose ends from the other stories.  I would highly recommend ‘The Spiderwick Chronicles’ to all, and am rather looking forward to reading through them again when I have my own children.

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