________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 16 . . . . April 10, 1998

Sprila Maze Cover The Spiral Maze.

Patricia Bow.
Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1997.
190 pp., paperback, $13.95.
ISBN 1-895449-68-5

Grades 5 - 9 / Ages 10 - 14.
Review by Alison Mews.

*** / 4


Neil's heart hammered twice, and then he was at the window. He grabbed for the latch at the side and twisted. There, locked! This brought him face to face with the cat burglar, if that was what this was.

The tips of their noses were three inches apart. Even in the jigsaw puzzle of moonlight and shadow, he could see the face clearly.

A young face, maybe thirteen. His own age. Black hair cut short. Eyes a glint of silver under straight black brows. Straight nose, straight mouth pressed thin. Skin the colour of moonlight.

It took a moment. Then Neil knew. The knowledge sent a shock wave of blood into his head and out again. He swayed dizzily.

Feature for feature, it was exactly the same as the face he saw in the bathroom mirror every morning.

While he stood gaping, the window frame suddenly emptied itself. Neil shook his head clear, wrenched the latch around and pushed at the casement. This time it flew open so suddenly, he nearly fell out...

Cool air flooded in through the open window. The air of an August night, smelling of moist leaves and the lake. Neil shivered and realized he was dripping as if he'd been standing in the shower. The waistband of his pyjamas was soaked with sweat.

No wonder, after coming face to face with that. He shivered again, and hugged himself.

Then anger swept in, and saved him. Because it wasn't who it looked like, it couldn't have been. As far as he knew, there were only three people in the world who'd ever owned a face like that. His father, for one. Himself, for another. And his twin brother Jasper.

And Jasper had died when he was five days old. Thirteen years ago.

The Spiral Maze is a dark fantasy in which a parallel world is accessed through an abandoned maze. Gripping and suspenseful from the moment Neil glimpses his dead twin brother through a window, the story propels the reader breathlessly forward to the final classic confrontation of good and evil forces. Using short sentences and cliff-hanger chapters, Bow maintains the pace throughout.

      When Neil's great-aunt dies, he and his father stay at their ancestral home near Lake Huron to make arrangements to sell the estate. It is here that Neil encounters the mysteriously undead Jasper and sinister shape-shifters. Fleur Padgett, a local girl, is somehow connected as is Charlotte Padgett, who disappeared a century before and haunts Fleur's dreams. Neil's compelling need to find out about his twin brother and Fleur's to uncover the truth about Charlotte lead them to the oppressively silent maze. Pursued by relentless shape-shifters, propelled by impassioned pleas from ghostly Jasper and finally, desperate to awaken Neil's father from a coma caused by the dark creatures, Neil and Fleur unearth the maze's gateway to the spin-off world.

      Bow develops a highly original concept of a new world being created through the dreams of Charlotte, who is imprisoned there, and her long-time jailer Dexter. It is up to Neil and Fleur to finish the pattern, complete the world and rescue Charlotte. While the rescue is ultimately successful, it has unexpected results. Both teens must draw on inner strengths: Fleur faces and consequently masters her claustrophobia; and Neil weighs his own selfish need for his brother against Jasper's best interests. And while Jasper's existence is never fully explained, Neil's reactions to him are believable.

      It's still true that books are judged by their covers, unfortunately, and the stylized graphic on this cover will simply not attract the Goosebumps generation of readers. Those readers of the genre who venture beyond the cover, however, will be rewarded with a sophisticated mix of suspense/mystery/thriller with a good measure of fantasy thrown in.


Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services at the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John's, Newfoundland.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364