A tale of tails,
This review is from: Wyrm King (Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles) (Hardcover)
Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles series somehow hasn't grasped me as tightly as their original series of teeny tiny, hauntingly eerie fantasy books. But the spinoff series roars to a satisfying conclusion with its third book, "The Wyrm King" -- while the frenetic pace is a bit confusing, it's a nicely gory, bizarre and intricate story.
Because of their kids' bizarre behavior, Laurie and Nick's respective parents decide to temporarily separate -- and though this is what Nick wanted once, he doesn't want it now.
But he hasn't got the time to be confused, because massive sinkholes are appearing all over their Florida city -- with something snakey inside. Suspecting something weird is up, Nick and his brother Jules join up with Laurie and the three Grace kids, and soon discovers that their new enemy is a sort of "wyrm king" (like a rat king, with the tails all joined together), which resembles the mythical hydra. They even find three tiny salamander-like creatures with one tail.
Unfortunately, Nick soon finds that his old promises and actions are starting to trip him up, and he's losing the trust of the various faery creatures around him. Their only hope to stop the sinkholes is to set the wyrms' natural enemy on them -- the giants, who have been sleeping in the sea. But lurking somewhere in the city is the ultimate enemy of the giants -- a monster that even they may not be able to destroy.
While the Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles started off rather blandly (especially compared to the first series), "The Wyrm King" is a solid grand finale -- plenty of fire-spewing giants, monstrous dragon-things, and the ground collapsing as monsters hatch underground. And while the back cover proclaims "It's over!", the door is left wide open for Black and DiTerlizzi to continue the series someday.
And Black and DiTerlizzi do a solid job plotting out a fast-paced adventure story that ties up various plot threads (the nixies, Jack Jr's giant-hunting), without losing its focus on the disgusting methane-breathing dragonets. Black's writing gives a genuinely magical atmosphere to the mundane Floridian setting, and provides the faery world with a sense of beauty and danger ("their long fins seeming to float, their scaly bodies lashing the water languorously").
And they weave in plenty of exciting scenes -- car chases (by a giant), Nick being briefly eaten, a brief exquisite trip into the underwater world of the merpeople, and a vaguely Lovecraftian climax. The biggest flaw with the book is that the frenetic pace gets a bit confusing at times.
Nick spends much of this book dealing with the consequences of his actions and his various ill-chosen promises, as well as the fragmentation of his new blended family (turns out he doesn't want it as much as he once claimed). But despite his errors, he eventually shows his mettle as a hero. Laurie serves as a solid female lead, and Mallory, Simon and Jared serve as a solid trio of faery-fighting veterans.
Though it started a bit limply, the Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles series ends on a solid, action-packed note with "The Wyrm King." And there's still plenty of room for further adventures in this world.