Sunday, November 15, 2009

CSFF Blog Tour Day 1 - Curse of the Spider King - A Review

The Berinfell Prophecies: Book One: Curse of The Spider King
By Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper

What I want to say for my review is: What are you sitting around reading this post for? Go get yourself a copy and start reading. It's that good. The end, goodbye, and good luck.

Besides being a non-acceptable review, what makes it good you ask? That's a reasonable question. Several things, and I'll try to get into that a little more in-depth tomorrow. This post will be my least in-depth as I am going to attempt to avoid spoilers. I am going to freely use spoilers in the second and the third day's post so beware!

I'll begin with a little background: The Curse of the Spider King, the first joint work of storytellers Christopher Hopper and Wayne Thomas Batson, is the one book I've been anticipating this year. Ever since I first learned that they were writing a book together I was pretty excited about it, and with good reason. Christopher and Wayne are both fantastic authors and their existing works are some of the best in their class. To set the stage for my review The Curse of the Spider King I'm first going to talk about their previous works and why I had very high expectations for their latest:

Wayne's The Door Within Trilogy consisting of The Door Within, The Rise of the Wyrm Lord, and The Final Storm are modern fantasy reader staples and like the Harry Potter books have been known to spark a love of reading. The Door Within Trilogy combines wit, wisdom, Wayne's particular sense of humor, and a great story suitable for readers of all ages. That is to say nothing of his fantastic Pirate series that explores the depths of more then just the sea, but the human heart as well. Combining great characters with fantastic storytelling, Wayne Thomas Batson tells a tale in his Door Within Trilogy that remains with you long after you close the final pages of the book. While often humorous, Wayne is not afraid to allow some tragedy and difficult situations into his books, and I think, particularly with a primary audience of children, that's wonderful. Children need to encounter the more difficult aspects of life, and fantasy fiction is a great way for them to face their dragons. I love to see real world issues brought into fiction that is probably going to be read by children. There are things that are truly terrifying in these books, and again, fantasy fiction allows Children to face their dragons. All of Wayne's books have wonderful messages and are full ofmeaning.

Christopher's The White Lion Chronicles consisting currently of The Rise of the Dibor and The Lion Vrie are books that reach that often touted but rarely actually achieved literary depth that readers of Tolkien and Lewis are familiar with. Serious literature with enough depth to be re-read again and again and still give “WOW!” moments. Seriously, if I was asked to name the deepest and most profound fantasy books written in recent decades The White Lion Chronicles would be near the top of the list, right along side L'engle, Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling. Christopher's books are transformative literature, filled with more then one layer of meaning, incredible depth, and the ability to reach past the mind into the very heart and soul of the reader. This is literature at it's finest, the kind that would make folks like Dickens and Shakespeare proud and extremely happy that English literature hasn't lost all it's profundity. In my reading of them, Christopher's books reminded me of medieval literature, deserving of a spot right next to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings on the bookshelf. Christopher Hopper has done it, he's actually written something I would definitely say is an absolute 'must read' for the serious reader and worthy of many re-readings and because of the level of depth contained within them. It is because of this profundity that I can honestly say that Christopher Hopper is one of the best authors I've ever read. His chronicles are among the very best that Fantasy has to offer.

On a final thought before I start my review, incidentally these are the two authors whose books I cannot seem to keep on my bookshelf for long before friends are begging me to let them borrow them. With these things in mind I had, understandably, very high expectations for The Curse of the Spider King.

Did it meet up to my expectations?

I think so. It is an excellent work, especially considering it has two different authors. While not perfectly seamless, their writing blends together very nicely. A few places where viewpoint changes were a little lost and confused, but not enough to be totally head-scratching as to who it is we're hanging around with now. The plot is good, promising for future books, and maintains the suspense nearly throughout. Again a few places where it almost began to wander down a rabbit trail, but never straying far. It has the marks one would expect from master storytellers in modern literature: Plot plantings, subtle details, genre bending and blending, rags to riches characters, suspense, and the peculiar ability to keep one turning “just one more page”. Definitely a book I would recommend. Similar in tone and style to Madeleine L'engle's A Wrinkle in Time, it had the ability to arouse the same feelings within me as that book did. A good thing that. For the most part, the heroes of the book are not spoiled, rich, already know everything, people. A few are unusually talented, but not ridiculously so, not only that the heroes almost all have to deal with things that real people, both children and adults, have to deal with in the real world. I am going to have to read it again to really get a feel for how I think of it, but as of right now I am left feeling very pleased with it, I do not expect a rereading to defuse that, if anything I think it will re-enforce it.

My criticisms of the book are few, but here they are:

The cliffhanger ending isn't quite my style. Not exactly a cliffhanger in the traditional sense, but more it's like you're walking along and then all of a sudden it just stops. Kind of makes for a poor stand-alone book, while not necessary, it is a positive quality to have. I personally, didn't like how it did that, but that's just me perhaps.

There were a few places where characters could have used a bit more of a description initially. I found it a little difficult to picture some of the characters when we were first introduced to them. Not a tremendous problem, but was enough to stop me in my tracks as I was reading it.

But like I said, my criticisms are few.

What I particularly enjoyed will be mostly left to tomorrow and day three but I will mention a few things now:

I enjoyed the realism of the characters and plot, it wasn't too far fetched an idea to believe what Christopher and Wayne were suggesting had been taking place for years could actually happen. I've heard this called 'the ability to suspend disbelief' before, it's a great thing to have in your book if you can pull it off successfully. (I believe I heard the term from Travis Prinzi on his The Hog's Head podcast.)

It deals with real world issues and problems. This can be a healing balm to those who are going through that kind of thing. It's wonderful to see that Wayne and Christopher have the courage to place their characters in such situations.

It doesn't get preachy. Not that it is lacking in spiritual value, my goodness it's not. But it doesn't get preachy in the negative sense of the word. By preachy I mean the author's are not shoving some message down your throat against your will. I've seen preachy in books both Christian and Atheistic and it repulses me every time. No such problem here.

There are several scenes where you almost feel like your there. You can almost hear the noises around you, see the place the characters are in, feel the emotion being felt, you really have a good sense of the atmosphere. I cannot stress how important having a good sense of the atmosphere is to good fiction. Christopher and Wayne deliver it well with only a few minor places where I failed to get a sense of the atmosphere of the scene. It is this remarkable aspect that allows for you to begin to get suspicious of the littlest detail mentioned as being a clue about something bigger.

The rest I'll cover in the next two post, but one of the things I was most surprised to find was some beautiful inclusions of other genres besides fantasy. Gothic horror even makes an appearance or two. I suspect that Poe and Lovecraft would be proud of some of those scenes. But that's for the next post.

In my post for day three I am hoping to be going far more in depth about why I liked the book, thoughts it inspires, and what I've been getting out of it.

Curse of the Spider King - Link

Wayne Thomas Batson’s blog -

Christopher Hopper’s Web site -

The Berinfell Prophecies Web site -

Participants’ Links:

Brandon Barr

Justin Boyer

Amy Browning

Valerie Comer

Amy Cruson

CSFF Blog Tour

Stacey Dale

D. G. D. Davidson

Shane Deal

Jeff Draper

Emmalyn Edwards

April Erwin

Karina Fabian

Todd Michael Greene

Ryan Heart

Timothy Hicks

Becky Jesse

Cris Jesse

Jason Joyner


Carol Keen

Krystine Kercher

Tina Kulesa

Melissa Lockcuff

Rebecca LuElla Miller



John W. Otte

Cara Powers

Chawna Schroeder

James Somers

Speculative Faith

Robert Treskillard

Fred Warren

Jason Waguespac

Phyllis Wheeler

Jill Williamson

KM Wilsher


WayneThomasBatson said...

Thank, Shane, for the thorough introduction to Spider King. CH and I look forward to visiting. So let us know if you have questions.

Amy Browning said...

Shane - great job sparking the much deserved interest in this book. I pretty much agree with everything you said. These are amazing authors who write intriguing stories that speak to all readers of all religions. They link universal truths with amazing prose and a rip-roaring good time.

WordVerif: bless. I'm not kidding.

S. J. Deal said...

Thanks for the comments!

Wayne: I will let you know, so far I haven't really thought of anything to ask, but if I do I will be sure to do so. Thanks for commenting.

Amy: Thanks for the comment, and thanks for the complement! Yes, that's definitely true. I like that about them. That is hysterical about the WordVerif. I had to tell my sister about that one. :-D

Phyllis Wheeler said...

Thank you for bringing me up to speed on the authors. I don't know enough about this genre, that's for sure!

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Great intro, Shane. I'm moving on to your next two posts and can't wait to see what you said in your in depth look.


S. J. Deal said...

Thanks for the comments Phyllis and Becky.