Author: Ally Malinenko
Year Published: 2013
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Reviewed by: Renee (Mother)
Recommended Age: 10+
Purchase: Amazon (US) * Amazon (Canada)
What it’s About: Lizzy Speare is a 12 year-old girl with an exceptional talent for writing. This is not a surprise because, unbeknownst to her, she is the last remaining descendant of the great playwright, William Shakespeare. When her father disappears from her life, Lizzy and her friend Sammy are swept up into the care of the Shakespeare’s muse, Jonathon Muse. But when the mysterious Dmitri Marlowe (the last descendant of that OTHER famous playwright, Christopher Marlowe) meets up with her claiming to know where her father is, Lizzy is no longer sure who she can trust.
Lizzy and Sammy must navigate the strange and mystical world of muses, mythological creatures, and danger to rescue Lizzy’s father, find and reclaim the Shakespeare fortune, and finally lay to rest the centuries old feud between the Shakespeares and the Marlowes.
My Thoughts: Lizzy Speare and The Cursed Tomb is part mystery, part mythology, part history, and a whole lot of non-stop action! Within the pages of this book, there is a story which features a strong female main character and her loyal friend Sammy; a unique collection of supporting characters based on Greek (and other) mythology and legend; elements of Shakespearean history; and an underlying mystery which grips the reader from the get-go with an intriguing prologue and brief glimpses into what the ever-seeing Fates/Witches observe.
This book features an ecclectic mix of characters including the strong female title character, the mysterious muse Jonathan, her nemesis, Dmitri Marlowe, and the diversity of mythological and legendary creatures such as cyclopses, satyrs, and other surprise creatures. I think Lizzy is a character that most tween girls could relate to. Interestingly, my daughter is also very interested in becoming an author, so I’m sure she would relate to Lizzy. I also really enjoyed the fact that I always felt uncertain about who was the bad guy until it became evident later on in the book. Jonathan and Dmitri were both very well-written characters.
I felt that the story was very original in bringing together the ancestries of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe and re-fueling the rivalry generations later with the notion that Christopher Marlowe’s genius was cut short with his early death and that Shakespeare went on, undeservedly, to achieve fame and success. Among the many elements included in the plot is the mystery surrounding Lizzy’s mother’s death, the disappearance of her father, the uncertainty of Jonathan’s motivations, and the revelation that somewhere hidden is a fortune which is solely Lizzy’s to inherit. While I certainly enjoyed all of these unique elements and was captivated by the suspense-filled plot, I did sometimes feel that the author was trying to do too much by merging Shakespearean history, mysticism, and mythology.
I found it fascinating to read about the history of the role of muses in this fictional world. When Dmitri is explaining to Lizzy how he felt about muses, I couldn’t help but think that the author was making a statement about her own views as an author navigating the publishing world or about writing or the demands put on authors; but, perhaps I’m totally off here! Regardless here is what Dmitri says to Lizzy about the topic (p. 144):
“They don’t care about when you pour your heart and soul into it. They only care about what they are going to get out of it. Can it be published? Can they get the credit? Will it count in the eternal score they are all keeping? That is all that matters to them. There is no art left in writing.”
There are a couple of issues that I do feel I need to bring up. First, Lizzy is referred to as “stupid girl” by Dmitri on two separate occasions in the story. “Stupid” is on our “do not say” list in our home, so it did make me squirm somewhat to read that. Also, on two separate occasions Lizzy is struck by Dmitri (once in the face). Honestly, I don’t want a visual of a person striking a 12 year-old girl. It did make me very uncomfortable and I don’t think it was necessary in this book.
My Bottom Line: Lizzy Speare and The Cursed Tomb features a strong cast of well-developed characters and an intriguing plot merging history, mythology, and legend that kept me guessing until the very end. This was a solid and enjoyable read and I would definitely read more from this author!
Who Would Like This Book? I would classify this book as upper middle grade (10+) because of the mild language and violence. I think tweens and teens who enjoy a good mystery with mysticism and mythology thrown in would enjoy this book.
Mom Rating: ★★★★☆
Mom Rating: ★★★★☆
* I was given this book free-of-charge by the author in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own. *
About The Author
Ally Malinenko has been writing stories and poems for some time now and occasionally gets them published. Her second book of poems entitled “Crashing to Earth” is forthcoming from Tainted Coffee Press. Her first book for children, “Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb” was recently published by Antenna Books. Ally lives in Brooklyn.
For more information on Ally Malinenko and Lizzy Speare, please visit http://allymalinenko.com/
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