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Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb by Ally Malinenko

Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb
Ally Malinenko
Antenna Books
Format: ebook
Source: author
a normal twelve year old girl with a talent for writing, who has a very not normal family secret. And when Lizzy’s father vanishes, that secret will change her life in ways unimagined. (Spoiler Alert! It turns out that Lizzy, or Elizabeth S. Speare, is the last living descendant of William Shakespeare. Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!)
Then Lizzy and her best friend Sammy are kidnapped, awakening in the faraway land of Manhattan. Their host is Jonathan Muse, whose job is to protect Lizzy from becoming the latest victim in a family feud nearly five hundred years old. Could that be why the mysterious, eye patch-wearing Dmitri Marlowe is after her? (Spoiler Alert 2—he’s the last living descendant of Christopher Marlowe, a friend and rival of Shakespeare’s. But keep it to yourself!) Is Marlowe after Lizzy’s family fortune rumored to be kept in Shakespeare’s tomb? Does he seek artistic immortality? Or Revenge (with a capital R) for a death long, long ago?
In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, Lizzy and Sammy are thrust into the realm of the mythical and fantastic—from satyrs and Cyclopses to Middle Eastern cab drivers and Brooklyn hipsters—in what is truly “an improbable fiction” as the Bard himself once wrote.

THREE WORDS: Fantastically Fun & Entertaining

MY REVIEW: I'm no Shakespeare scholar or fanatic, but I do enjoy his work, and author Ally Malinenko has done something quite extraordinary with her book Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb...she's made Shakespeare fun! Fantastically fun, in fact! This adventure filled middle-grade surpassed my expectations and turned out to be an excellent read.

Twelve year old Lizzy Speare is not a normal girl; she's the last living descendant of William Shakespeare. Which, she finds out on her twelfth birthday; the day she and her BFF, Sammy are kidnapped by a Muse for their own safety. Jonathan Muse reveals to Lizzy that as the last Shakespeare descendant she is the sole heir of a great fortune. But Dmitri Marlowe, the last descendant of Shakespeare's good friend and fellow writer Christopher Marlowe, is after Lizzy, the fortune, and maybe even Revenge! Jonathan introduces Lizzy and Sammy to a whole world of mythical beings and creatures, and Lizzy must confront her destiny to save everyone and everything she loves.

Malinenko has crafted such an original and imaginative story with Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb. A fun, exciting middle-grade tale about the infamous Shakespeare and Marlowe relationship, and their imagined descendants  is an ingenious idea. An idea that Malinenko pulls off excellently with flair and talent that Mr. Shakespeare would be proud of.

This is a longer middle-grade book, but it has a great fast-pace full of suspense and thrills. I didn't find myself bored once while reading it and eagerly turned pages. Malinenko creates a world that is rich in history, mystery, and all things fantastical. A world that feels both modern and old-world, hip and enchanting, dark and whimsical. The work of Shakespeare is not always easy to understand or get into, but in Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb the world and work of Shakespeare is presented in a way that is both appropriate and highly entertaining for younger readers. Plus, Lizzy's journey and adventures are just so addicting and fun that younger readers won't even realize that they're also learning a great deal.

The fantasy and mythical elements are awesome! Satyrs, Cyclopses, gorgons, fairies, selkies, Muses, magical quills, talking Ravens, doors that change, and more, Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb as it all. Lizzy's journey is full of compelling mystery, fascinating history, and breathless peril. But, this book also has a lot of heart and is surprisingly touching.

Lizzy is a great heroine: smart, brave, capable, and compassionate, but stubborn and sarcastic in an endearing way. Sammy is completely adorable and charming and I want him as a BFF too. Jonathan Muse and Dmitri Marlowe are wonderfully layered and complex characters. I love that I trusted and doubted both fellows at the same time and that they constantly surprised me.

My only complaint is that the ending (only like the last two pages) felt a bit abrupt and jarring, but it did leave me excited for a sequel.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb is a terrific middle-grade book with a wildly entertaining and refreshing premise, compelling characters, and fantastic storytelling. Lovers of Shakespeare, the fantastical, or just fun adventure, will certainly enjoy this tale. 


Ally Malinenko: Site / Facebook / Twitter
Purchase: Amazon
Ally Malinenko, a self-proclaimed Bardolator, took her first pilgrimage to Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2009 and hasn’t been the same since. Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb is her first children's book. Her poetry book, The Wanting Bone, was published by Six Gallery Press. She blogs at Ally lives in Brooklyn with her husband.

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