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The Hound of Rowan: Book One of The Tapestry Paperback – September 23, 2008
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In a hidden alcove within Chicago's Art Institute, Max McDaniels discovers a faded tapestry. As he watches, the tapestry begins to glow; soon after, he receives an invitation to attend a private boarding school in New England. When he arrives at Rowan Academy, where young people with Potential are trained to fight an unnamed enemy, he and the other apprentices are housed in magically morphing rooms and assigned animal charges. Max is paired with the last lymrill in the world, a nocturnal creature with metallic quills. They train on the Course, where they experience different scenarios as they try to achieve a goal and move up levels as they progress. Meanwhile, apprentices and even some full-fledged agents are disappearing all over the world. This novel's sprawling, quirky boarding school has obvious parallels to Hogwarts, but Neff's storytelling boasts charms of its own, and U.S. readers may appreciate that this magical adventure, the first installment in the planned Tapestry series, takes place here rather than abroad. Tixier Herald, Diana --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Max’s intelligence and goodhearted nature give the story a solid emotional core even as the surprising twists and turns keep the pages turning. Neff’s first novel is sure to draw many new fans eager to see what happens next.”—VOYA
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The author has an extraordinary and vivid imagination. He's created a cast of characters that you will fall in love with and care about. Some of my favorites are:
Max's roommate, David Menlo. He is a rich character filled with profound gifts and ancient wisdom.
Max's charge, Nick,the last lymrill in the world. He plays a very key role in book 3.
Bea Shrope, aka Mum, the reformed hag who must sniff children so she isn't tempted to eat them.
Agent Cooper, whose scarred face frightens the students. He seems very cold and calculating until you get to know him.
This list can go on and on. So many characters add so much to this story. I highly recommend reading this series. As a reference, some of my other favorite young adult series are: Fablehaven, Ranger's Apprentice, Farworld, The Beyonders, The Heir Chronicles, Septimus Heap, The Unwanteds, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wizard of Oz and many more.
For those that are considering starting a new fantasy fiction series I can say that the entire series is worth the full 5 stars. I enjoyed it so much that, had I reviewed it before reading the 2nd and 3rd, I would probably have given it 5 stars. I only gave the Hound of Rowan 4 stars since, in the books that follow it, Neff has shown how he can be such a cleaver and creative writer that it makes this one seem that he could have added just a bit more to this first book to get it to the level of a creativity and intrest of those that come after (but not a boring book by any means, still a great story!) Also love the tie-ins with Celtic folk lore.
Although the main character, Max does end up going to a school for magic there are not enough similarities to call it a Harry Potter knock off. Neff can hold his own on talented storytelling and also represents by including some of his own illistrations. I actually liked it just as much, if not more, than Rowling's series. (But that could just be that I have reached my saturation point with Pottermania.) Overall, the beginning gets you into the action pretty quick and will keep you hooked until the end.
NOTE TO PARENTS: Unless you're one of those that doesn't like the whole kids using magic thing, there is nothing in this book to worry about your kids reading. I always appreciate a writer that is talented enough that they don't have to use teenage hormones to sell thier stories and I look for those series that I can recommend to the YAs in my family as well as my friend's children without dissapointing parents that maintain high standards and morals for their youth. This book and series has received some of the best reviews and feedback from parents and thier children alike.