The Hound of Rowan is written by Henry H. Neff. It is the first book in The Tapestry series. It was published in 2007 by Random House. Neff’s website can be found here.
“Max McDaniels lives a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry depicting the mythic Cattle Raid of Cooley. Now many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry. His discovery will lead him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await: fantastic creatures, rigorous training, and his very own observatory within a mansion by the sea.
But dark things are waiting, too. When Max learns that priceless artworks and gifted children are disappearing from around the globe, he finds himself in the crossfire of an ancient struggle between good and evil. To survive, he’ll have to rely on a shadowy network of agents and mystics, the genius of his roommate, and the frightening power awakening within him.”
What I Liked:
Well, this wasn’t too bad for a Harry Potter look-alike. It is a sad fact of life that you cannot write a book about someone going to a magical school without treading onto Harry Potter ground. This book was a bit more science-fiction-y and a bit more mythological, but it’s still straight-up Harry Potter. The one thing that intrigued me was that Max is not “the savior,” but his roommate, David, appears to be. Max is some weird incarnation of an Irish hero, or something.
The creatures are interesting, and the classes and activities based around the magic system Neff is setting up are well-developed. I especially liked the soccer field that changes its topography and the virtual reality simulator. Decent worldbuilding, all around.
I think this is one series where I really have to read some more, because right now I’m in the “it-has-potential-but-ehhhhh” stage, and I don’t want to dismiss it just because it shares similarities with Harry Potter.
What I Didn’t Like:
Wait, why is it called The Hound of Rowan? We only see the hound once.
Really, I read this book and all I thought was “Harry Potter.”
David’s too perfect. This is only the first book, but still—throw in some flaws! Also, is there something significant about his coughing or am I just paranoid?
A big NO to the twelve-year-old and the fourteen-year-old romance going on (it’s as bad as Aang and Katara).
It has potential, but ehhhhhhh. I’ll hold off on pronouncing stronger judgment until I read at least one more in the series.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Realistic, Middle Grade, Science Fiction
“Mum? Bob? It’s Ndidi. Could you come out, please, and meet the new class?”
The pear-shaped boy scurried to the back as the woman’s voice cackled and shrieked. “Oh, they’re here, they’re here! The darlings are here!”
The door flew open, flattening Miss Awolowo. The children screamed as a panting, gray-skinned woman as short and stout as a pot-bellied stove burst from the kitchen to envelop Jesse in a fierce embrace. Jesse’s legs buckled; he fainted in to her arms. Her shiny face looked the children over, grinning hideously to reveal a mouthful of smooth crocodile teeth.
“Oh, Ndidi! You’ve outdone yourself. They’re wonderful! Oh, they’re so wonderful and plump!”
Lanterns bobbed about the dark grounds in pairs as the faculty combed the orchard, lawns, and gardens. Away in the woods, Max saw more lanterns peeking from among the trees. He whispered to a Second Year standing next to him.
“Have you guys seen anything?”
The Second Year shook his head and motioned for quiet. Suddenly, someone at the end gasped, “Something’s happening!”
Max was smooshed against the window as the crowd surged forward. Below, the lanterns bobbed wildly, rapidly converging at a point near the orchard’s edge. A huge plume of flame erupted at the spot. Max and the other boys gave out a yell.
Something monstrous and wolf-shaped was illuminated by the sudden burst of light. It took several hunched, uneven steps on its hind legs before dropping to all fours and racing across the lawn toward the forest and the road.
“Get back in your rooms!”
The Hound of Rowan has some decent worldbuilding and interesting components at Hog—I mean, Rowan Academy. I do like the science-fiction-y feel to the fantasy, as well as the underlying mythology. I’ll probably continue reading the series, because this book has me intrigued, but it’s way too similar to Harry Potter for me to really love it.
You can buy this book here: The Hound of Rowan: Book One of The Tapestry