By Ally Malinenko
Published by Antenna Press
Published in 2012
EBook, 214 pages
Middle Grade Fantasy
MEET LIZZY SPEARE… a normal twelve year old girl with a talent for writing, who has a very not normal family secret. And when Lizzy’s father vanishes, that secret will change her life in ways unimagined ways. (Spoiler Alert! It turns out that Lizzy, or Elizabeth S. Speare, is the last living descendent of William Shakespeare. Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!)
Then Lizzy and her best friend Sammy are kidnapped, awakening in the faraway land of Manhattan. Their host is Jonathan Muse, whose job is to protect Lizzy from becoming the latest victim in a family feud nearly five hundred years old. Could that be why the mysterious, eye patch-wearing Dmitri Marlowe is after her? (Spoiler Alert 2 – he’s the last living descendent of Christopher Marlowe, a friend and rival of Shakespeare’s. But keep it to yourself!) Is Marlow after Lizzy’s family fortune rumored to be kept in Shakespeare’s tomb? Does he seek artistic immortality? Or Revenge (with a capital R) for a death long, long ago?
In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, Lizzy and Sammy are thrust into the realm of the mythical and fantastic – from satyrs and Cyclopses to Middle Eastern cab drivers and Brooklyn hipsters – in what is truly “an improbably fiction” as the Bard himself once wrote.
I found Lizzy Speare by Ally Malinenko to be very Potteresque. Instead of witches and wizards, Lizzy Speare has literary and mythical characters. It’s a fun tale of self-discovery, revenge and adventure.
Lizzy is a very likeable character that, along with Sammy, basically goes on a Shakespearian goose chase to find her father. Malinenko uses Shakespeare’s quotes as clues. Younger children may not recognize all the literary references; but, it’s a fun way to learn. I expect this is the author’s way of introducing Shakespeare to preteens. Lizzy can be very insecure at times; but, what twelve year old isn’t? She has to process a lot of change in her life, much like Harry Potter. She is introduced to a new world that she thought didn’t and couldn’t exist.
Dmitri Marlowe is a nasty little villain. You never know what to expect from him, even whether to trust him or not. One minute he is fairly likeable but then, in a split second, his is a vicious, vindictive little man. I call him little because what grown man would go after a little girl? The reasons for his hatred are really not known. It is more than just literary and financial envy. I would have liked more information about the underlying feud between the Shakespeares and the Marlowes. Malinenko uses the mystery more as a cliff-hanger for the next book than plot development.
Jonathan is an interesting character. He’s another character you don’t know whether to trust or not. He shrouds himself with Shakespeare secrecy. I found that to be a little irritating. He knows all the deep dark secrets but doesn’t tell Lizzy, even if it could help her understand her new life. He keeps saying that everything he does is to protect Lizzy. I’m sure if I believe. I think he has a hidden agenda, or at least it appears that he does.