Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Books of Elsewhere: Spellbound by Jacqueline West

I listened to this book on audio, after skimming through the previous title (also on audio) to refresh my memory. While I loved the first book, with its mixture of mystery, creepy, and fantasy, the second book didn't work as well for me and I had to really push to finish it. Some of this might be that I'm really not an audiobook person, and usually only listen to stories I'm familiar with, so they're kind of background noise. On the plus side, I did finish it and I did want to know what happened next.

The creepy, mystery, fantasy is still there, but the character of Olive is, well, kind of dumb. Her parents' eccentric mannerisms are nerve-grating, and the cats are cryptically unhelpful. Too much anticipation, suspense, and slow descent towards an obvious conclusion. However, that's an adult reader's view. Kids won't have a problem with some of the more obvious clues and will eagerly follow Olive's twisting adventures.

Olive is still friendless. The weird new boy next door, Rutherford, doesn't count, Morton is drifting farther away into the world of the paintings, and she resents the cats' power and their cryptic and unhelpful warnings. Her parents are just as strange and neglectful of their daughter.

In her state of extreme isolation, it's not surprising that Olive easily falls prey to the power of the house and the spellbook. She sinks deeper and deeper into its dark magic, becoming controlled by the house and the book, until she makes a bad choice and loses the friendship of the cats. After this, she struggles with the urge to use the spellbook, and battles her feelings of guilt over Morton and her suspicions of Rutherford. She also picks up more and more pieces of the dark mystery surrounding her house and the previous inhabitants.

Verdict: While it all seemed quite obvious to me, I'm, you know, an adult. This has been a very popular series with kids and they don't seem to mind some of the more obvious foreshadowing. The thrilling tension of the story catches the reader as tightly as the spellbook catches Olive, pulling her along to an exciting conclusion. I'm pleased that this isn't one of those doorstopper tomes and it's well-written and exciting. It's one of the few series where I don't have a crisis over buying the sequels.

ISBN: 0803734417; Published July 2011 by Dial Books; Borrowed from the library on audio; Purchased for the library

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