Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb by Ally Malinenko

Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb
By Ally Malinenko
Antenna Books

* A copy was provided by the author for review.

To Sum It Up: Lizzy Speare loves writing and William Shakespeare. At twelve years old, she’s a natural at reading the Bard’s works, and there’s a very good reason for that. Lizzy is Shakespeare’s last living descendant and the target of some evil schemes hatched by the devious Dmitri Marlowe, who just happens to be the last living descendant of Shakespeare’s contemporary, Christopher Marlowe. Life is about to become like a scene straight out of a book for Lizzy when she and her best friend, Sammy, suddenly find themselves in Manhattan in the castle of Jonathan Muse, who has watched over generations of Shakespeares. Now he is tasked with keeping Lizzy safe as he, Lizzy, and Sammy frantically search for Lizzy’s kidnapped father.

Lee's Review: I love reading anything to do with Shakespeare, so I was immediately intrigued by this book’s synopsis. I love mythology, too, and was thrilled to discover that Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb also incorporates a lot of mythical figures into this exciting tale of a girl with an extraordinary lineage. What I wouldn’t give to one day find out that I was descended from William Shakespeare! You’re one very lucky young lady, Miss Speare.

Lizzy is a plucky little heroine who is easy to identify with. If I had read this as kid, she absolutely would have been my fictional best friend because of her love of reading and writing. Lizzy has a lot on her plate, what with the bombshell news of her famous ancestor and her missing dad and all. It’s not easy to absorb all of this at once, but Lizzy toughs it out and becomes increasingly self-assured over the course of the novel. She is also incredibly brave; there’s nothing that she won’t do to get her father back, even negotiating with an untrustworthy snake like Dmitri Marlowe. I just loved Lizzy’s friendship with Sammy; those two make an awesome team and epitomize what it means to be best friends.

Loving Shakespeare as much as I do, I was in heaven with all of the references to him and his writings. The chapter titles all cleverly quote his works; I had a lot of fun trying to match each title with its source. Even better, the Bard actually makes an appearance in the novel, as does another famous author from the Elizabethan period, Christopher Marlowe. I really liked how Marlowe was incorporated into the story; I’ve never read Doctor Faustus, but I kind of want to now.

The world of Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb features some familiar characters from mythology, like satyrs, nymphs, and the Fates. Jonathan really is a Muse, as in the kind that inspires writers and artists. This book had a whimsical feel that meshed well with its mostly urban, New York City setting. If a castle with doors that allow you to travel to other time periods is going to exist anywhere in the world, of course it’s going to be in Manhattan. As a former New Yorker, I’m always happy to see the place that I’ll always think of as home turn up in a book. I fully admit to nearly hyperventilating when Lizzy and Sammy had to venture into the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn because it’s right next to the neighborhood that I grew up in. The descriptions of Williamsburg and Coney Island, another Brooklyn locale that I have very fond memories of, were spot-on; they were just as I remember them.

My only real quibble is that I wish there had been a few more details about Lizzy’s family history. There’s a lot more to Dmitri Marlowe’s motives than meets the eye, but we only get snippets of the big picture. I’m especially curious about what Lizzy’s father, Rupert, did in the past that was so terrible. Ah, but that’s what sequels are for, and I can’t wait to read the next installment of Lizzy’s story.

All in All: This book is a wonderful, imaginative blend of adventure, mythology, and even a bit of historical fiction. It’s a great introduction to William Shakespeare (and Christopher Marlowe) for younger readers, and it’s sure to charm adult fans of Shakespeare as well.

Melissa's Review: I am a great fan of Shakespeare, my favorite works being Macbeth and Hamlet. So, I was super excited to read Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb because of all the Shakespeare allusions. However, there was so much more to it than Shakespeare; there were tons of mythical creatures and cool magic. It was a perfect blend of new and old inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised at how balanced everything was; there are so many layers to the story, but they work together perfectly. It’s easy for things to get kind of overwhelming when you have so many ideas working together, but it didn't happen at all in this novel. Everything was introduced in a way that just worked; nothing was farfetched.

You can just tell how much time and thought were put into the story line, and the characters don't disappoint either. My personal favorite was Jonathan. He seems to have his stuff together, and he is always there for Lizzy. In a way, he is kind of the unsung hero. I also really liked Lizzy; she started off lacking confidence, but as the story progressed, Lizzy became the person she was meant to be. Oh, and Sammy is the best best friend ever; I really admire his loyalty to Lizzy.

I had like a super spaz when I found out Jonathan's castle was in Manhattan! And when Lizzy and Sammy went to Brooklyn, I could barely contain my squeals of excitement. It was so cool to read about places I knew; it really helped me connect more with the book.

All in All: This book has everything going for it. It has a great plot, awesome characters, a kick-arse setting, and a perfect mix of new and old ideas. I can't wait to read what happens to Lizzy next!

Check out the blog tomorrow for our interview with author
Ally Malinenko!


  1. I really enjoyed this book as well! Great review!

    1. It was such a fun read; I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it, too!


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