Spiral: Tunnels Series, Book 5

Book review by
Betsy Bozdech, Common Sense Media
Spiral: Tunnels Series, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Violent series' new twists take story in strange direction.

Parents say

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Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn a little bit about exploring/survival, but this is really a fantasy adventure that's intended to entertain rather than educate. Even so, it is reading.

Positive Messages

Although the story is quite grim, with the fate of humanity constantly in jeopardy, society crumbling, and plenty of painful (physically and emotionally) incidents, the underlying themes are of loyalty, determination, and ultimately trying to do the right thing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite self-recrimination and some mistakes (though fewer than in earlier books), Will always wants to do the right thing. He actually isn't personally responsible for propelling much of the action in this installment, but he's still the series' central character. Elliott is a resourceful, brave young woman (though she's also skilled at sniping bad guys), and Chester, as always, is determined and loyal (though also somewhat absent here). Drake is willing to do whatever it takes to defeat the evil Styx, sometimes putting himself and others in harm's way as a result. Former allies-turned-enemies reappear and re-establish trust; other characters are introduced who are willing to put everything on the line to save the world.


Near-constant danger, peril, and violence; hanging over the whole book is the threat of the end of the world (or at least humanity). Sympathetic characters are killed, some quite shockingly, abruptly, or harshly. Weapons include guns, knives, grenades, explosives, nuclear devices, and more. Early in the book, there's a deadly bombing incident involving someone who has been surgically altered (against her will) to carry an explosive inside her body (additional similar incidents are mentioned). Lots of gory, gross descriptions related to the actions of the Styx women undergoing the Phase and the larvae that result -- human bodies are treated as incubators and/or eaten with gusto. Dead and dismembered bodies are described on more than one occasion; some people die as the result of fights, while others are attacked and slaughtered. Characters sacrifice themselves violently. Pets are killed.


Some flirting, a brief kiss, mention of love and crushes.


Mostly British insults/slang, including "bloody." Also "pissy," "Christ" (as an exclamation), "for God's sake," etc.


Passing mentions of brands including Diet Coke, Starbucks, and several kinds of guns.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to drinking (brandy, malt, flasks) and smoking (cigars, cigarettes). A scene in which despairing Colonists get quite drunk on malt is mostly played for humor. Chester and Will make a pact to smoke cigars and get drunk if they manage to defeat the Styx.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spiral continues the Tunnels series' mix of adventure and frequent peril and violence. This installment takes the story in unexpected new directions; secrets involving the evil Styx race's latest plans for humanity are rather gruesomely revealed, and Will Burrows and his friends are -- as always -- constantly in danger as they fight to stop the horror known as the Phase. Once again, characters who readers have come to care about are killed, often in abrupt, shocking ways. There are tons of explosions (including human bombs), deaths, dead/dismembered bodies, shootings, betrayals, and more, and some characters prove willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to help their cause. But despite all of the terrible things that happen to the protagonists, overall their story is still one of loyalty, bravery, and doing the right thing.

User Reviews

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  • Kids say

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Teen, 15 years old Written byshadetheflame February 1, 2019

Child friendly

Great for kids should not have to sex reference because now flirting is bad and kids have never seen an adult kiss
Teen, 13 years old Written byMockingjay27 October 3, 2013

Really Good but not what i expected...

I thought the book was pretty good with the whole idea of the "Phase". I couldn't really think of any else that the authors could do, but they di... Continue reading

What's the story?

As SPIRAL opens, Will Burrows and his friends -- including loyal Chester, resourceful Elliott, wily Drake, and newly empowered Mrs. Burrows -- are holed up at a mysterious estate owned by Drake's military veteran father, trying to figure out what to do next in their ongoing war against the evil Styx. The killer Dominion virus is no longer No. 1 on the threat list, but it turns out the Styx have something even deadlier on deck. It's called the Phase, and if it's carried out to completion, all of humanity could be washed away in a bloody genocide. As usual, it's up to Will and the gang to eliminate the threat ... if they can.

Is it any good?

The Tunnels series was originally planned to be a trilogy; now that it's expanded, it feels as if the authors are scrambling to come up with new obstacles and plot twists to keep things going. What started out as a compelling (if often grim) adventure about a mysterious underground world and the many secrets hidden in its depths has taken so many out-of-left-field turns that it's hard not to roll your eyes. That's especially true this time around; the details of the Phase feel as if they were yanked out of a completely different series with a more sci-fi bent, and new details "revealed" in Spiral seem to completely discount important character traits and actions established in the first four books.

That's not to say that Spiral isn't readable; it is, and fans of the characters and their adventures probably will want to keep plugging along to find out what comes next. But between the constant peril and violence, the plot curveballs, and the fact that there's still no clear resolution in sight to the Styx menace, Spiral isn't nearly as capable of standing on its own merits as the previous books were.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the characters are developing as the series continues. How is Will changing? What is he learning? Do you consider him a role model?

  • Is all of the violence necessary to the story? How does it compare with what you've read in other fantasy novels? Does the book's overall tone affect how the violence comes across?

  • What do you think of the new twists the story takes in this book? How does the plot in this installment compare with where the story began? Do you like where it's going?

Book details

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For kids who love adventures

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