Ish Healy's Reviews > The Spiderwick Chronicles Box Set

The Spiderwick Chronicles Box Set by Holly Black
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's review
Jan 16, 2016

it was ok
Read in January, 2012

Author: Tony DiTerizzi and Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy, Children's Lit
Rating: C

Rather than review each of the books individually, I’m going to respond to them as a series, in part because I read the series as one book in an anthology, and in part because I think that’s how the story works best, as one longer-story, rather than as a series of shorter ones.

The story, if you’re not familiar with it is such: Following the failure of her marriage Helen Grace brings her three children, daughter Mallory and twin sons Simon and Jared, to live on her old family estate, the Spiderwick Estate, which had been in the possession of her Aunt Lucinda until the older woman was institutionalized. The house is completely rundown and soon after they move in the family begins to notice strange things happening, which they attribute to the misbehaviour of the primary protagonist Jared. That is, until Jared finds a hidden room in the home’s attic and a field guide written by Lucinda’s father, Arthur Spiderwick. This guide details the magical world that exists alongside ours, hidden from human site. Jared begins to study the book and discovers that the family has disrupted the estate’s resident house brownie, Thimbletack, turning him into an angry boggart. Calming Thimbletack is only the start of the Graces’ problems, however, as the discovery of the book leads to the emergence of a goblin army and the threat of the ogre Mulgarath, who desires to take over the magical world.

There are two major problems with this series. The first is that the individual components of the series do not belong on their own. A good book should be able to stand relatively on its own; even if it’s part of a series, each book should have its own climax. The payoff at the end of the series might be greater, but the payoff at the end of each book should be worth having read the book itself. This doesn’t really happen in the books of The Spiderwick Chronicles. Instead it almost feels like each book is an attempt to find one or two pieces to a puzzle, with all the rest of the pieces appearing at the end. I don’t mind being given some of the pieces to a greater puzzle in each book, but I expect a book itself to be a puzzle on its own, like one of those collages that when placed together properly forms a picture of Mickey Mouse. The other problem is that there is very little character development. None of the characters is particularly well rounded, not even Jared who tells the story. When you combine these two problems it almost feels as though DiTerlizzi and Black didn’t really think that young readers were capable of following something with any real depth to it.

There are good elements, however. I really like the world that they've crafted and the amount of details that have been put into it - while the actual characters were lacking, the creatures were well developed. I got to know what a goblin, ogre, brownie, and so on are in this world. I think that DiTerizza and Black could have created a huge, Harry Potter-esque series, had they not underestimated the abilities of their readers and taken some of the beings that they were creating and added more depth to everything. In the end, I was disappointed by this series not because of what it was, but because of what it could have been.

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