The Hound of Rowan
by Henry H. Neff
A MuggleNet reader named Tracy recently asked me to point her toward the series of books most nearly just-like-Harry-Potter. At the time I could think of a baker's dozen of series, including Diane Duane's Young Wizards, Emily Drake's Magickers, Diana Wynne Jones' Chrestomanci books, and so on. If I had read this book by then, I would have put it near the top of the list. The Book Trolley's main idea is "If You Like Harry Potter, You May Also Like..." And this book is exactly what it's all about.
How would this book appeal to Harry Potter fans? Let me count the ways. First, we meet a brave, magically talented boy named Max McDaniels who has tragically lost his mother. Second, Max gets a letter inviting him to a magical school after a strange incident at a museum. Third, the school (at a secret location) surrounds Max with quirky teachers and colorful students - some friend, some foe - in buildings and grounds that have a mind of their own.
Fourth, Max meets amazing magical creatures and beings on a daily basis, from the ogre and hag who work in the kitchen to the Sanctuary full of rare animals, one for each student to bond with. Fifth, there are magical sports (none, alas, involving broomsticks), school dances (complete with a touch of adolescent romance), and a battle against a powerful force for evil that is trying to infiltrate the school. Actually, that's more than one thing, so I'm kind of losing count. Count on this, though: Max will be at the center of the battle. His destiny is linked to a dark power that needs Max's blood to reawaken... and, as he learns along the way, Max may need to make the ultimate sacrifice to defeat it.
All right, so I lost count of the ways. Let's take it as read (no pun intended) that Max McDaniels has a lot in common with Harry Potter. But he also has some cool things Harry didn't have. Like an amazing dorm room that tailored itself to him and his roommate. And his roommate, David Menlo, is pretty amazing himself. If you want another Ron Weasley, you'll have to look elsewhere - perhaps to a stocky, smartmouthed kid named Connor Lynch - but David is so freakishly powerful and brilliant that it's sometimes scary. It's good to have him on our side.
Not everyone is. Max has his own equivalent of Draco Malfoy, a second-year student who gets pulled with him into the dark, menacing climax of this adventure. And it soon becomes clear that Max's six-year program at the Rowan Academy will develop at a faster pace than Harry's adventures at Hogwarts. For it seems as if five or six years' worth of trouble squeeze themselves into Max's first year.
The trouble has something to do with a series of art thefts around the world, plus the disappearances of several prospective students - Potentials, as the faculty at Rowan call them. There is reason to suspect that a traitor is in the school. And in spite of the heavy security around and within the gates, a mysterious and dangerous figure named Ronin dogs Max's steps; huge, horrible, werewolf-like things called Vyes keep popping up; and a climactic confrontation in a graveyard proves only the beginning of a new magical war.
The Hound of Rowan is the first book of a new series titled The Tapestry, written and illustrated by a Chicago-born high school teacher. The next installment, titled The Second Siege, is already available. For more information on this author and his work, visit his website.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 10+
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