An acquaintance has been telling me all summer that I simply have to read The Hound of Rowan, the first book of The Tapestry series by Henry H. Neff. I finally got it from the library and read it.
The Hound of Rowan has many elements beloved by Children’s/Young Adult fantasy fans, among them:
- A normal young boy, who is even a bit of an outcast, that has a surprising, almost magical experience one day out of the blue.
- Missing parents (in this case, a mother).
- A mysterious letter that tells the boy about an unheard-of school he can go to.
- A magical world that coexists with the non-magical, secret to most everybody.
- A boarding school made up of First Years, Second Years, etc. (Hmmm. I didn’t know we really did that in
- Classes in magic (only called Mystics).
- A school sport that the different classes play against each other, and which the main character excels at.
- A really evil bad guy that almost destroyed the world as we know it, that everyone thinks is dead, but really isn’t.
- A prophecy about a child that will defeat the bad guy.
- In order to raise the bad guy into power, they need some of the main character’s blood to mix in a cauldron to finish the “elixir.”
- An unfortunate thing happening to a classmate at the end of the book that everyone seems to blame the main character for.
- Awards given to students at the end of the school year, and the main character receives one for his courage.
Any of that sound familiar? I felt like I was reading Harry Potter in an alternate dimension. In Neff’s dimension, Harry’s name is Max McDaniels.
Harry—I mean, Max—lives with his bumbling, overweight father after his mother’s mysterious disappearance two years ago. At the Art Museum, Max has a strange vision of a tapestry, and then he is plunged into a magical world. He is a Potential, offered a scholarship at Rowan Academy in New England to become one of the magical guardians of the human race against The Enemy, the remnants of the followers of the bad guy named Astaroth (who everyone says is dead, but really isn’t). You’ve got the normal boarding school-type stuff, a little love interest, magical creatures, and another student that hates Max’s guts—although why he does is a complete mystery to me.
To give Neff credit, it isn’t completely a Harry Potter knock-off. The students don’t get their magical creatures until after they get to school. They don’t have brooms or use wands (yet) and there isn’t a slimy teacher that detests Max. There is a little more technology at Rowan than Hogwarts in the place they call The Course, which is a lot like the Holographic Deck on Star Trek. There aren’t any house elves either, but a reformed ogre and reformed man-eating hag named Mum that was, frankly, a little creepy. In fact, there were a few creepy things about the book, like the fact that other adults encourage Max to lie to his dad, Max lets strange people into his house when his dad is out of town (with absolutely no hesitation), and lets some strange guy sleep over, too. As a mom I was thinking, “Are you crazy?!” Neff must not have young kids.
The Hound of Rowan was an okay read. I honestly couldn’t get past the Harry Potter parallels and ended up finishing the book just to see how many more ideas would be the same. Now, I know that any story that is vaguely similar to Harry Potter runs the risk of being accused of copying, but the number of similarities were too glaring to overlook.
Unfortunately, Neff couldn’t copy the great character development of J.K. Rowling. The characters were a bit flat, and, in the case of Max’s roommate, David, changed out of the blue. I read one scene and had no clue where the new David had come from, because all of a sudden he was this amazing magical bookworm that had figured out where Astaroth was imprisoned, when before that scene he was almost furniture. Furniture that coughed a lot (which was all the thought I had given David).
By all means, if you’re looking for another Harry Potter (not another great story like HP, but the same story), read The Hound of Rowan.
As an author, my biggest question is how in the world this even got published. I really want to know, because I have this great idea about a girl that moves across country and her first day of high school she is drawn to an amazingly good-looking boy who seems for some reason to hate her guts. It turns out he’s a . . . demon, yeah . . . and even though demons usually eat teenage girls, and she looks scrumptious to him, he is a reformed demon and so only eats wild animals, along with his demon “family” that also only eats animals. The girl and this demon fall in love, but she also becomes best friends with a demon hunter, so this weird supernatural love triangle thing ensues. And, did I mention that my main character is a bit immature, but for some reason all these supernatural beings love her to death.
I think it would sell…