REVIEW - The Curse of the Spider-Riders: A Magical Adventure (Michael Dane)

The Curse of the Spider-Riders: A Magical Adventure“Punch him in the throat!"
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(Review appearing for the first time on!)
Really, how can you argue with a book that starts with ‘punch him in the throat?’

Getting young folks to sit down with a good book these days can be somewhat more challenging than it was many moons ago. We all know the drill – technology, attention spans, whatnot. Grabbing the interest of your audience is more important now than ever. Maybe some throat-punching is exactly what’s needed, but there’s more to this tale than just the threat of bone-snapping and a few dog turds. (And that’s only page two!)

The Curse of the Spider-Riders does indeed have rideable spiders. And wasps. And beetles. And slugs. Not to mention faeries, talking rodents, talking squirrels, and some critters you may not have heard of before, like thistle-wraiths. We’ve got war, a very healthy dose of action to keep those pages turning, some thought-provoking moments, and a taste of mystery to keep curious minds trying to work out a thing or two as they read. (Sorry, can’t give that away!) All of it set against the backdrop of a refreshingly unique fantasy world. But as I’ve said, there’s more to your wild fantasy ride through bug-infested skies here. Our hero, an orphan boy who always wanted a family of his own, has some difficult choices to make, and he won’t be making them without an abundance of scary and heartfelt moments alike.

On the technical side, I was as happy as always to find a mid-grade book with chapter names. Frankly I think the practice of putting a mini-title to all those mini-tales that occur inside a larger work helps to excite any reader to read on (so long as they don’t give away too much, of course), but it’s that much more of a delight for younger audiences. The book is constructed well for a mid-grade piece, with short chapters, easy language, readable font, and good pacing. Personally I like seeing a table of contents so we can review all the delicious looking chapter headings, but the absence of one is certainly no deal-breaker.

As for issues, I did have a few grammatical ones here and there. The odd sentence that didn’t sound quite right, a few misspellings or omitted letters, such. But it wasn’t enough to detract from the work. There is some language present that while passable for YA, might be a tad strong for mid-grade (words like ‘murder’ and ‘slaughter’, references to blood, phrases like ‘shut up’, and so forth). Fair warning that parents might want to give this book a once-over before handing it down the chain to their kids.

This story is on the short side, and I think that’s good too. It reaches out with some action and doesn’t let go, but manages to hold you just long enough to appreciate its nuances. I would certainly recommend it even for the most finicky of young readers.

About the Author: Having served 15 years in the Australian Army, M. Dane turned to writing children's fantasy as a means of unwinding at the end of a difficult day. He quickly fell in love with the process, along with the magical world of Hemoertha and all of its inhabitants.

His journey began in 2017 when he published The Traitor in the Trees (MG fantasy). This was followed up with The Other Side of Blood (fantasy), and he is most excited about his recent release of The Curse of the Spider-riders (MG fantasy).
('About' info reprinted from