Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Tapestry Book One The Hound of Rowan by Henry H Neff

A young boy with special talents is approached by a special school located far from home to come and join a set of first year students and learn magic so that we can fight against evil powers. He has a magical animal to care for and powers and abilities well beyond his age or experience. No this is not Harry Potter but it certainly contains all the same elements and yet this book is not a copy or a poor relation to Harry Potter it is surprisingly a very engaging fantasy story.

Max McDaniels visits an art gallery with his dad, his mum has disappeared (I hope the resolution of this will happen in the second book). While he is at the gallery he sees a tapestry with a vivid battle scene. A mysterious man with white eyes appears to be following Max with sinister intentions. Later Max is visited by Nigel who works for the Rowan Academy and so Max leaves his dad and goes to live at the Academy which has all the usual features of a boarding school with eccentric teachers, banquet halls, ball games, and older students who are bullies.

There are some nice touches in this story by Henry Neff such as a grove of apple trees which the students visit on their first day. “Every year a Class Tree will bear one apple for each living member of that class. When a member of that class has passed on , his or her apple turns to gold. Thus we remember them, and those apples we do not touch.” Page 74

Then there are the rooms which are configured to match the students. Max and his room mate David are given the most magical room with an glass ceiling that reveals the night sky.

I also liked the magical creatures that the students are entrusted to take care of. The children are taken to the Sanctuary which is guarded by YaYa, a black lioness. Among the rare and endangered animals is a winged bull or Syrian Shedu, a small dog or Somerset Bray, twin fauns, a red bullfrog, a highlands hare called Tweedy and a silver gazelle or ulu. For Max the creature he must care for is Nick a Black Forest Lymrill which resembles an otter with metallic quills, a foxlike tail and curing black claws like a bear. To feed their animals the students tell a food bin what they need for example Max says ‘food for Nick: Black Forest Lymrill'. “The bin was piled high with crates of writhing rodents and worms along with small stacks of metal bars.” Page 143.
Sport, in this book, is a game like soccer but the twist is the sports field keeps changing with varying degrees of difficulty. Hills, fences, barriers, walls, lakes etc all appear randomly as the game progresses adding to the drama and requiring amazing skill levels.

If you enjoyed the Harry Potter books, or Skulduggery Pleasant (Derek Landy) or The Tower at Moonville (Stephen Elboz) then I am sure you will gobble up Tapestry Book one The Hound of Rowan. A terrific start to the series which is sure to be a winner with Primary readers.

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