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on September 11, 2007
This is the start of a series (not unlike Harry Potter - but thankfully different) that follows a group of children who are recruited (by mysterious means) to attend a spooky, wonderful, unique school in New England. The characters are well defined - you really get a feel for each different person - and the non-human characters are inventive and interesting. The author manages to weave in some celtic mythology, fairy tale creatures and beasts totally from his imagination (which are pretty scary). This may be a book published for teens but it's a great read. It keeps you guessing with twists and turns, goodies, baddies and strange mystic happenings. I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well told tale of adventure and magic. Plus the illustrations are beautiful. I wish the author all luck for this series - I think he's filling J.K. Rowlings shoes admirably.
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on October 7, 2007
Reading The Hound of Rowan was an utter treat. I kept finding myself transported to Rowan; it truly lives on these pages. The characters are created to be believable, and, with one exception, the character names are well-chosen and not silly or gimmicky. I also really appreciate that this book is literally well written - the grammar is gorgeous without being stuffy or dull (this is a true gift for an English teacher - I will enjoy using Hound as a tool for inspiring student writers). The comparisons to HP are inevitable, but I believe this series stands on its own, and I am so excited to read book 2!
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on October 2, 2007
This is an incredible read. The story of Max's journey blends mythology and art history into a wild ride that explores the relationships of father and son, teacher and student, compatriots, and ultimately heroes. The writing style instantly sweeps both you and Max into a world that is as believable as it is fantastical.
This is not for the faint of heart, as darkness is barely held at arms length and the struggle to overcome has just begun. It is, however, for both the young and old.
The stage for the second book in the series is set masterfully and one can't help but imagine the trilogy on the big screen.
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on September 28, 2007
I picked up this book earlier today and was completely captivated by the end of the first chapter. A rich, vivid and adventurous tale that keeps you turning page after page in anticipation of what is coming next. A few twists and turns, memorable, real characters that you root for, and a fast pace will keep you reading and wanting more. While, there are some similarities to the Harry Potter seriers, this book and (I'm sure the forthcoming books in the series) clearly stands on its own two feet with the ease and polish of a well told tale.
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on January 12, 2008
a masterful story that will insight a reader to journey beyond the realms of imagination. The Hound of Rowan has some wonderfully engaging characters that will keep the reader wondering the characters true intentions. The story is a bit like Harry Potter, but with a more absorbing plot lines and twists that will keep you guessing until the end. This book is definitely a must read, it is not just for children, but will also engage adults too. I encourage everyone to read this book, as you will not regret it!
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on June 4, 2008
In Henry H. Neff's The Hound of Rowan: Book One of the Tapestry, we are introduced to Max McDaniels, a thirteen year old boy who stumbles upon a room in the Chicago Institute of Art where he finds a strange tapestry, whose pictures seem to move and produce music. After discovering the tapestry, he finds a note in his pocket telling him to expect a visitor who happens to work for Rowan Academy, a school that specializes in nurturing the talents of kids with special abilities.

Setting aside the inevitable HP comparison, I found myself enjoying this book immensely. The book follows Max's first year at Rowan, where he discovers that he may be in possession of powerful magic. There is a great, ancient evil that was thought destroyed but may not be, and a legion of followers who are working to help the ancient evil regain control. There are several other similarities to HP; Max turns out to be extraordinarily good at the school's chosen sport; he has the possibility of having a huge amount of power at his disposal that he is unaware of; the school becomes his safe haven from the Enemy; the town next door is privy to the secrets of the school, and the students are allowed to spend some of their free time there; there is even a kind-hearted giant who the kids befriend (in this case, a reformed ogre who works in the kitchens); there are some other similarities to HP, but revealing those would give away some of the story. For as much as the book does seem to mirror HP, there are just as many differences within the story to make it stand on its own; Max loves his family and doesn't want to stay at the school; the magic is tied directly to ancient Irish lore rather than a more fabricated background; there is also some science tied in with the magic behind the school, so while I can see where people would jump to the conclusion that Neff is trying to create his own version of HP, I just can't see it that way. He is trying to create a world that is entirely his, and just so happens to be using some of the same techniques that JK Rowling herself borrowed from other stories to create hers; because in all fairness JKR didn't come up with these ideas all on her own. She's just become really famous for it.

I'm giving it 4 stars because Neff knows how to move his story along and ties up the plot lines nicely, leaving just enough questions to make the sequel worthwhile. I would like to see fewer plot devices akin to HP; while I understand that it is hard to not compare YA books to HP these days, there did seem to be a few too many similarities. Neff has proven that he can create a world all his own, now I'd like to see him take it further in his own direction.
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on December 17, 2010
I was pretty excited reading the back of the book - it seemed like it had all the qualities of a children's fantasy novel that would entrance me. It did captivate in some ways, however, in many others it was sadly lacking. I felt myself more compelled to focus on the supporting character (the main characters roommate) than the actual main character Max. He was sadly disappointing in many ways, and continued to disappoint throughout the book. It was only towards the end of the book that he even showed any potential as a leading character - and even then it was so hurried and slapped together that it didn't really end the story at all. Of course, I purchased the second book along with the first and I will continue reading to see where it leads - as I am still interested in David, the supporting character. I always wonder why writers use the 'intelligent one' as a supporting character and not the main one? One of the reasons I actually LOVE "Mysterious Benedict Society" is that it capitalizes on intelligent and knowledgable children as the source of ability and character. As I said earlier - I was really let down by this book :( Hope the second one is better!
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on October 4, 2007
Neff's novel captures the imagination from the get go. As I first delved in I thought, "oh no, this is a Harry Potter, clone". This notion was quickly dispelled. As I learned of Max McDaniels and his adventures I was enthralled. Early on Max realizes that he is a "Potential" and faces both exciting and scary adventures while dealing with the day to day of being a teen; such as the first crush and leaving home.

One instantly becomes caught up in Max's world. I found myself unable to put the book down until I knew both the fate of Max and his classmates. I am looking forward to the next installment. This is an excellent fanciful adventure. I highly recommend for anyone up for some magical adventures.
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on November 11, 2007
I normally read non-fiction or realistic fiction. Accordingly, a young adult fantasy is certainly not the type of book I would normally read. Nevertheless, it was so engaging and well written that I read it in only two sittings.

The author weaves a story of fantasy, folklore, mythology and history. The comparisons to Harry Potter will be inevitable and it will likely appeal to that audience. However, the book was even more engaging than that series largely because of its setting in modern times. The author's observations on young boys' relationships with their fathers, friends, girls, and teachers are seamlessly interwoven with a larger fantasy story.

It is well worth reading.
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on October 31, 2007
From the moment that Max McDaniels entered the Art Institute, I couldn't put this book down. It's a great one, and I highly recommend it for kids of all ages (including bigger "kids" like me). It manages to be a fully satisfying meal in itself, but it also made me hungry for more, which I hope will be coming soon with another book in the series! The whole range of characters are great, and the story is engaging to say the least. I'm planning to buy this book as a holiday gift for my nieces and nephews.
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