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The Hound of Rowan

Review

The Hound of Rowan

Twelve-year-old Max McDaniels lives with his father near Chicago, Illinois. Every year they visit the Chicago Art Institute on his mother’s birthday. This tradition has become especially important since his mom disappeared two years ago. But this year particularly stands out when Max’s world expands into a magical battle of good versus evil.

Max begins to notice something strange when he finds the scary man with one milky-white eye studying him on the train. He sees him again in the museum and ducks into a back room to hide. That’s when he observes the colorful tapestry depicting an ancient battleground --- a tapestry that no one else can see. This event notifies the recruiters at the amazing Rowan Academy, and they quickly seek out Max. They tell him that he is special and is invited to attend Rowan Academy to develop his abilities and learn strategy and tactics to assist in the battle with the ancient evil threatening our world. Unfortunately, the bad guys have recruiters as well, and they’re also out to get Max.

Max hesitates to leave his dad alone but eventually agrees to attend the special school. There he meets amazing students from all over the world, plus an incredible assortment of unusual people and other species --- such as the assertive hag and kind-hearted ogre working in the kitchens, the talking mother goose and the manic-depressive bathroom attendant. He makes new friends, like his exceptionally gifted roommate David, and new enemies, including cruel second-year student Alex.

Their classes include physical training, languages, math and science, plus others, such as Strategy, Etiquette and the magical Mystics. And all of the students love The Course, a life-like simulation training, which is similar to stepping inside a video game. In addition, each student is assigned to take care of a mystical creature. Max is chosen by an aggressively affectionate Black Forest Lymrill named Nick, complete with claws, quills and a big appetite.

But not everything is a-ok. The enemy manages to kidnap a handful of students before they can reach the safety of Rowan. However, even Rowan isn’t as safe as it used to be --- there is a traitor at the Academy sharing inside information. In addition, enemy soldiers are somehow gaining access to the school grounds. Everyone is in danger, though for some reason Max has been targeted specifically.

THE TAPESTRY is Henry H. Nefff’s first novel, and he has done a superb job with this captivating story and illustrations. Imaginations will sprout wings and fly with the unending adventures thrust upon our likable hero, Max. Neff also introduces a horde of other amazing characters, all sparking different reactions (including admiration, trust, dislike, suspicion, fear and even hilarity). This incredible mix pulls readers into Max’s new magical world of good versus evil.

I did find the similarities between THE TAPESTRY and Harry Potter a bit distracting, but looking past this, The Hound of Rowan series will stand on its own, filled with exploration, mysteries and adventures. Fans can look forward to the sequels THE SECOND SIEGE (fall 2008) and THE REIGN OF ASTAROTH (fall 2009).

Reviewed by Chris Shanley-Dillman on September 23, 2008

The Hound of Rowan
by Henry H. Neff

  • Publication Date: September 23, 2008
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bluefire
  • ISBN-10: 0375838953
  • ISBN-13: 9780375838958