Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Book Review: Harry Potter. . . I mean, The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff





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 America).
  • 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…

16 comments:

Rebecca Talley said...

Yeah, Jaime, you should write that story . . . .

Katie Parker said...

Hey, TV shows do it all the time! Better yet, you could make it *really* original and have the girl be the demon who wants to devour the teenage boy...

Tristi Pinkston said...

You totally should, Jaime. Really.

Alison Palmer said...

ooooh, I remember a few teenage boys I wanted to devour in high school. It would totally work! Wait did I just say what I think I said? Scratch that.
Whatever you do, don't tell my kids if you write it. How will I ever get it away from them so I can get my hormone fix? ;)
Thanks for the review, btw- that's one I can not off my to-read list.

Crystal Liechty said...

That was hilarous! And I know you were just kidding about your book idea but you might have something there...

Jaime Theler said...

Hmmm. I was kidding, but maybe I should play with the idea a bit more. I like your twist Katie.

Julie Wright said...

HA! Loved the review. You should totally write the demon hunter book. But you have to make sure the girl is totally incapable of doing anything intelligent--at least until after she gets transformed into a demon too. I love books that make humanity look like a waste of time and effort.

Candace E. Salima said...

Very funny. And I'm totally with you, how on earth did that book get published.

Anonymous said...

Ouch. Rough review. Well, I'll cross my fingers that you like the next book better and that you find a bit more to contrast with the Harry Potter series. Best wishes.

-Henry Neff

Goldstripe said...

Hey lady play nice! I'm addicted to both the tapestry series and the harry potter series and i know them inside and out and they are not that simaler! oh and on your post about writers block you have no clue how it affects writers!!
if you want to reply please feel free to visit my blog i'll be more than willing to chat with you.
signed very angry bookworm!

Goldstripe said...

ok you probably know alot about writers block i was just mad about your creul reveiw.

Goldstripe said...

about your good idea stpanie myer and hollywood doesnt like copywrite infringment. and yes i know i cant spell to save my soul good thing my soul doesnt depend on my spellng skills!

Anonymous said...

look lady,where in harry potter does the world get overrun by demons in the next books and most of the population dies and the main character is the brother of a pretty much god, oh yeah, nowhere. I also love how the magic is completely different from Harry Pothead I mean potter but it's still considered a spinoff.

Anonymous said...

I had the same thought while reading the first book- it was very similar to the basic plot structure of Harry Potter. However, the next few books are truly, in one word, epic. They are like nothing I've ever read before, delving deep into the richness of Irish and world mythology. Few books have given me chills- whether out of fear or wonder- and this series contains at least half of them. I strongly recommend reading the entire series. The third book is my own particular favorite.

Bethany Woodbridge said...

Hi, just read your review, and I can't help but agree with all the parallels in the first book with Harry Potter. However I feel you were a bit near sighted...

There are 4 more books! Starting with the second book, this story takes of like a rocket and never stops, expanding on world much bigger and stranger than anything even brushed upon in HP. There's HUGE character development, and after only a chapter or so the story looses all resemblance to HP.

So yes the story starts of a bit slow. And yes, the first book closely resembles HP. But there's so much more there! I highly recommend this series and hope you will give it another chance.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of similarities between this book and HP, but if you think about it, there are so many other awesome novels that resemble the plot of Harry Potter: Percy Jackson, for example. But Harry Potter was inspired by other novels too.

(writing in caps so people will notice)

THIS IS A REALLY GOOD BOOK, AND I HOPE THAT DESPITE TE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN HARRY POTTER AND THE HOUND OF ROWAN, YOU WILL STILL READ IT. GIVE IT A CHANCE, MATE.

😘