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Small Spaces: 09/27/19
The reason I continue to read children's fiction is because themes and tropes are rendered down to their core essence. In the case of the road narrative spectrum, children's fiction is a great litmus test.
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden is a short (213 pages) horror novel perfect to read just before or perhaps on, Halloween. Ollie has been burying herself in fiction since her adventurous mother died. She keeps her grades up well enough to get away with reading in class. But she's by no means happy or her old self.
On the last sunny day of the year, Ollie rushes out of class as soon as it's over and rides down to her favorite swimming hole. There she meets a strange woman who is threatening to toss an antique book into the river. I should say as a librarian who has done weeding, I admit I would have let her drown the book. But to Ollie the destruction of a book is a horrible thing. So she takes the book and the woman's promise of a curse from the "Smiling Man."
The remainder of the book is aftermath of Ollie's decision, and the woman's follow through on the threat to curse her. The curse manifests itself on the way home from the annual sixth grade trip to a local farm. The bus breaks down and the creepy bus driver warns the kids to stay to the small spaces before dark or they will be taken.
This delightfully creepy book sits perfectly in the road narrative spectrum and is another example of the duality of scarecrows and minotaurs. These two fantasy / horror creatures are different sides of the same coin but often show up together as joint travelers, as they do in Small Spaces.
The traveler here is both the scarecrow and the minotaur (99), though the minotaur takes longer to reveal himself. Scarecrows are protectors, often of the cornfield, and they are here. In horror, such as Small Spaces, they are also the monsters. They are also the outcome for unwary travelers. This novel has both forms of scarecrow. It also has a minotaur (though more of a hell hound) as the monster in the middle of the inevitable corn maze.
The destination isn't a rural one or the wilderness, even though both feature heavily in Small Spaces. Nor, tempting as it might be, is the destination uhoria, even though there are ghosts and things out of time. Ollie and her two companions have one goal: return home, and get the other children on the bus home (66).
Finally, there is the route home. It is from the very get go, the cornfield (FF). Initially it's a symbolic one, being the farm. As the adventure unwinds, the way home becomes clear and it's through the corn maze. Solve the maze and emerge through back where you started. As where they started is a wooded area near a river, there is also the added cornfieldness of the tkaronto.
All together, Small Spaces is the tale of scarecrows and a minotaur trying to get home via a cornfield (9966FF)
The second book in the series is Dead Voices and it came out over the summer. I will be reviewing it soon.
Comment #1: Sunday, September 29, 2019 at 11:24:43
I had trouble getting into this one. I need to give it another try.
Comment #2: Wednesday, October 02, 2019 at 12:09:00
That's too bad. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter.