Saving embryos

Wood Sprites (Elfhome) - Wen Spencer

I received this Kindle ARC through NetGalley


I’ve been Ms. Spencer’s fan since I read her Ukiah Oregon books. Her Tinker (my review is one of my favorite fantasy novels. When I saw this book on NetGalley, I jumped at the opportunity to read and review it.
The novel takes place at exactly the same time as Tinker but in a different city, New York, and with different protagonists. Louise and Jillian are nine-year-old genius twin sisters, attending a school for the gifted children. When they discover they were adopted, or rather artificially implanted as embryos in their mother, they start researching their biological parents on the internet, which necessitated hacking into various protected websites (geniuses, remember).
They find much more than they expected, including several other embryos, their full siblings, still in a cryogenic facility. Unfortunately, the payments for the frozen embryos’ storage have stopped coming, and the embryos are scheduled for termination in a few months. The book follows the girls’ mind-twisting adventures, as they scramble against time and mysterious adversaries to save their unborn siblings from a garbage bin. From a school musical to a museum heist, from movie making to magic making, from their dog-robot nanny to the alien villains, the twins hurtle towards their future at an accelerated rate.
Humor and tension interlock in this novel, driving the reader. Every interruption I had in my reading – to eat or sleep – felt painful. I didn’t want to stop. Consequently, the novel’s cliff-hanging finale was a slap in the face. I wanted to know how the story ended, and after over 400 pages, I still didn’t get my wish.
Although the story is told from the POV of one of the twins, Louise, they seem inseparable. Jillian is always there, beside Louise, a part of her. The dynamics of twins’ relationship is not a common topic in literature, and the author handles it surprisingly well.
The girls are charming and vulnerable, utterly devoted to each other, but despite their sky-rocketing IQs, they are still nine-year-olds. Jillian craves a lead role in a class show, and they conspire to get her one. Louise wants a pet. They both dislike a snobby classmate and cringe at deceiving their loving parents. To tell the truth, they lie to their mom and dad constantly and inventively. As they are good kids, no doubt about that, the book serves as a warning to parents: be aware!
The world building is fascinating and elaborate. In the first three books of the series, we see it from the perspective of Pittsburgh, a human city transported by accident to the elven planet of Elfhome. In this volume, #4 in the series, we finally get to see what is happening on the Earth side of the situation. It would’ve been even more interesting if the protagonists were older and understood the interplanetary and intercultural complications better.
Actually, the choice of young children, even as precocious as Louise and Jillian, as protagonists in a clearly adult novel has me divided. I can’t say I dislike it but I’d prefer them older, maybe teenagers. Because of their outstanding mental abilities, they constantly outwit their centuries-old enemies, but I find it hard to read about nine-year-olds having enemies. I have two children of my own, so I probably project, but I wanted the girls to play and have fun, not race across the US to deal with evil alien conspirators. That’s what adults and armies are for.
Another of my problems concerns the quality of writing. In all the books of this author I’ve read, and I read them all, she often gets technical, but never as technical as in this one. In all the previous books, the specific details are kept to a minimum necessary to understand the plot. In this book, the info dumps inflate like balloons. They occupy pages and pages at a time, with intricate explanations of ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the girls’ online antics, the preparations for a school show, or a birthday bash of one of their friends. None of it is needed for the plot. As a result, the text is cluttered by piles of extraneous words that slow down the action. I’m guessing that this novel didn’t get as good an editor as all the previous ones, if it got an editor at all.
Other than this one serious flaw, it was a delightful read. I look forward to the next book.