Synopsis: Max McDaniels’ life changes when he discovers a magical tapestry at the museum. Shortly after he is offered a scholarship at Rowan Academy, a school for Mystics. Max struggles with new school subjects as well as his own powers awakening. But Rowan is not as safe as assumed when strange creatures manage to breach its borders. Together with his roommate David Menlo, Max discovers that the demon Astaroth is rising again.
What a dragon thinks: ‘The Hound of Rowan’ is the first instalment in the series and I have to thank my girlfriend for introducing me to it some years ago. Back then I devoured book after book save ‘Red Winter’ which is only available as an e-book. I could easily buy it and read it on my laptop but I am afraid it might break my heart. Books 2, 3 and 4 did a very thorough job. Anyway, I was really happy when I started re-reading ‘The Hound of Rowan’ and felt right at home. No disappointment I sometimes experience re-reading a book and realising I have outgrown it.
In a way, the story reminds you of ‘Harry Potter’ what with the magical school and the fact that non-Mystics don’t have an inkling magic exists. We even have an ancient Evil thought destroyed and Max being a bit of a special snowflake. But we are not here for Hogwarts. The Tapestry series has its own voice!
‘The Hound of Rowan’ has a slower pace than the rest of the series but we only just got here and meet new characters and learn how this magical school works. Henry H. Neff takes his time introducing his world and characters to the reader. Not in the negative never-gets-on-with-the-story sense! Throughout the book there was enough tension and action and adventure to keep me well-entertained. He also made sure that the reader got attached to the characters so it would be easier to hurt us later on. This first book is lighter in tone and plot which will change in the next books.
As a protagonist Max was a tad too righteous for my taste. He fights for what he thinks is right, does not follow orders and has sudden, barely controllable outbursts of anger. Max is a natural fighter and most of the time acts on impulse, rather than think about what he should do. Perhaps that’s why I could identify more with sickly, reclusive bookworm David. David is definitely one of my favourite characters and he needs to be protected at all costs! *glares at Henry H. Neff*.
They boys are already sticking out: David holds immense magical powers and Max has been attacked by enemy agents and has great fighting skills. To top thins off, David and Max have a spark of Old Magic within which makes them invaluable in the eyes of both Rowan and the Enemy. Due to that they occasionally receive special treatment from Mrs. Richter, the Director of Rowan. Her name means ‘judge’ or ‘bench’ in German by the way. We are talking about extra protection or being privy to more information. This makes it hard for their friends not to be jealous.
What I absolutely love about Rowan are the rooms. They configure themselves to match the children’s personalities. Some get a dungeon, some a castle and some might end up with a pirate ship.
Like the animal-loving hermit I am, at Rowan you would always find me either in my room or in the Sanctuary. There, Nolan looks after magical creatures until every first year takes responsible for a Charge and becomes their friend for life. Or rather, the Charge picks their human.
I literally screeched when I was told that you can find out what your room looks like and what your Charge is on Henry H. Neff’s website. I adore my cobbler shop and will be a good steward to the Dewdrop Faerie(s) in my care.
Rowan has electricity. Electricity. There are so many fantasy novels where magic equals medieval setting and I am glad this didn’t happen here. In the next books the setting changes when Max journeys far across the world and beyond but for now we remain in a modern world. For example, students have the possibility to train in a state-of-the-art Course generating all sorts of scenarios but most use it to sharpen their fighting skills. You would also find me here, jumping over rocks and killing ogres.
Jokes aside, I liked how there was this danger lurking behind a façade of learning and feasts. The world is not as safe as assumed: students training to fight, agents patrolling the grounds at night. David, in the meantime is busy dragging every piece of evidence about Astaroth’s return to daylight. When he tells Mrs. Richter she does not laugh in his face! She actually believes him and at this point I was close to tears. Finally! Finally an adult with sense.
Legends, myths. Anyone? I really liked the Henry H Neff poured so much mythology into the book, especially Irish. He plucks people like Cú Chulainn or Scáthach from the myths and weaves them into the story. I love mythology but whenever I recognise characters in a book or film my excitement increases exponentially. The same can be said about details in the book that I might only discover or understand later. Max’s language instructor was cursed to speak every language at once. Her husband? Yeah, his name is Mr. Babel. I totally lost it because I didn’t realise it the first time I read the book. These kind of Easter eggs are my favourite thing about stories.
Could it get even better? Yes. Henry H. Neff not only wrote the books, but also illustrated them with beautiful and sometimes scary drawings.
Huh, this review turned out to be quite long but I really enjoy this series! I could talk about it for hours. 🙂 I would love to say so much more but I don’t want to reveal too much and spoil your reading experience. Of course all of you are going to read it, right?
Favourite characters: David, Cooper (he has like three appearances in the first book but I love him and he is awesome all the time)
Conclusion: Do you want adventure? Do you want a good solid story? Great characters? Magic? Dramatic turn of events and heartbreak? Then you should totally read this series!
Details about the book:
- Author and illustrator: Henry H. Neff
- Age: 10+
- Publishing house: Yearling Books
- Pages: 448
- Year of publication: 2008
- Binding: Paperback
- ISBN: 978-0-37583-895-8