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The Ironwood Tree (SPIDERWICK CHRONICLE) Hardcover – 5 Apr 2004
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After a brief breather in book three, the Spiderwick Chronicles heat up with doppelgangers, then dwarves, then a dastardly double-cross, in the fourth book, The Ironwood Tree. The Grace kids (nine-year-old twins Simon and Jared, and 13-year-old Mallory) might think that things have finally quietened down for them, but the nefarious faerie world has many more surprises in store.
In the second chapter, "IN WHICH the Grace twins are triplets", a mysterious and menacing shape-shifter shows up at Mallory's fencing match, and before Simon and Jared can suss out what's up, their sister disappears, presumably kidnapped. Eager to recover Mallory, the two descend into a strange subterranean world beneath a nearby quarry, only to find themselves prisoners and then privy to a wicked (and almost unbelievable) plan.
Author Holly Black once again skilfully manages to weave in plenty of creepy details (including a bloody final chapter) without whitewashing or leaving young readers feeling too creeped out--and she gets able assistance from Tony DeTerlizzi's ever-evocative pen-and-ink drawings (especially in the looming menace of the Mulgarath). Fans of the series will have a hard time waiting for the final instalment, titled fittingly, ominously, The Wrath of Mulgarath. (Ages 6 to 10) --Paul Hughes, Amazon.com
First a pack of vile, smelly goblins snatch Simon. Then a band of elves try to entrap Jared. Why is the entire faerie world so eager to get their hands on Spiderwick's Guide? And will the Grace children be left alone, now that the Guide has mysteriously disappeared? Don't count on it! At school, someone is running around pretending to be Jared, and it's not Simon. To make matters even worse, now Mallory has disappeared and something foul in the water is killing off all the plants and animals for miles around. Clues point to the old abandoned quarry, just outside of town. Dwarves have taken over an abandoned mine there. And the faerie world's abuzz with the news that a creature with plans to rule the world has offered them a gift to join with him - he's given them a queen...See all Product description
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Compared to the earlier novels in the series, I was a little disappointed with this one. It is very similar to The Seeing Stone in that it focuses on the kidnap and rescue of one of the kids, only this time around the series does not really offer anything new to the reader. Other than a quick glimpse of Mulgarath, the story just treads familiar ground. There is nothing more about Arthur Spiderwick's whereabouts or where Thimbletack hid the book and there is little explanation for the dwarves' behaviour (why, exactly, did they feel a need to collect the boys and what was the shapeshifter?)
I was also somewhat disappointed by the characterisation this time around. While there was a little development for Jared, Simon and Mallory got next to nothing. This was a huge shame for me as the three protagonists were portrayed very realistically in the earlier books but this time it's only really Jared's time to shine.
All in all, this was still an enjoyable and lighthearted story, but was still by far the weakest part of the series. Hopefully, the series will show improvement in its final instalment.
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