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Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 11/01/2014 Gr 4–6—Maria has never understood her grandmother's affinity for spiders, but then Grandma Esme dies and leaves her a spider-shaped ring-and a mysterious note: "The spiders are your friends. Do not abuse their friendship." Soon Maria realizes that the ring enables her to control spiders, which means that she can ask them to fetch things for her, improve her wardrobe, and even take the school mean girl down a peg. However, the appearance of a mysterious man from her grandmother's past leads to the revelation that the Order of Anansi is bigger than Maria could have imagined, and that she's not the only one with a spider ring. When her best friend's long-lost aunt comes to town, it soon becomes clear that she is the Black Widow of the Order's legend, and that her hunger for power, and for all of the spider rings, could threaten Maria and her entire family. This is a well-paced fantasy for middle-graders who do not suffer from arachnophobia.—Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Brighton District Library, Brighton, MI - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 02/01/2015 Grandma Esme has always been a little bit kooky, especially with her affinity for spiders, but seventh-grader Maria finds a refuge from the trials of adolescence-namely a snotty girl at school-in her visits to her grandmother’s cluttered, old house. Maria is devastated when the old woman passes away, but she’s even more suspicious, since Esme passes away just days after claiming that the spiders were after her. Maria inherits her grandmother’s spider ring and soon realizes it gives her control over a specific species of spider, the brown recluse, but she also discovers that she is only one of eight such ring holders and the most powerful one-the Black Widow-is the likely murderer of Esme and is hot on Maria’s heels. Non-arachnophobic readers looking for a carefully plotted, well-told introduction into the horror genre will find this exactly what they seek. Harwell’s style is direct and frills-free, focusing mainly on Maria’s efforts to understand the ring and then defeat the Black Widow; the story also includes some pleasingly quotidian elements, including Maria’s coping with school bullying and her dealings with her male best friend. The comeuppance for the villain has a delightful ew factor, while Maria learns that with great power comes great responsibility. KQG - Copyright 2015 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.