Middle Grade · Reviews · Throwback

Let’s Start With a Throwback

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Series: The Tapestry Series
Author: Henry H. Neff
First Book: The Hound of Rowan
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: Sept. 25, 2007
Rating: 5 ★
Reading Level: 810-910L / 5.9-6.6
Recommended For: Fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, The Raven Boys, and Gregor the Overlander

MAX MCDANIELS LIVES a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. Many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry, and his discovery will lead him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him.

But dark things are waiting, too. When Max learns that priceless artworks and other gifted children are disappearing from around the globe, he finds himself in the crossfire of an ancient struggle between good and evil. – Penguin Random House


Quite frankly, I don’t understand why more people haven’t read this. It’s the perfect book series for when you’ve finished Harry Potter, you’ve finished every book Rick Riordan has put out to date, Divergent just isn’t cutting it, and you’re sitting in a pile of other fantasies, dystopians, contemporaries, sci-fis, and all you can think is but I want more.

Bam. Here comes Henry H. Neff flying from the heavens, placing this wonderful five-book series into your outstretched hands. You’re welcome, my child.

The Hound of Rowan follows Max McDaniels, a young boy that lives with his single father in Chicago. After awakening his magic by finding a tapestry in an art gallery, he’s invited to Rowan Academy in New England to learn how to control it. However, before he can accept, he’s attacked by a mysterious creature looking for something she’s convinced Max has. Though he’s rescued in time, this encounter will follow him to his new school, reminding him that something dangerous is going on, and he may just be in the center of it.

Now, before I go on, I need you to put away your protests that This is a Harry Potter rip-off!! It was 2007. Every Middle Grade and Young Adult book was borrowing from either Harry Potter or Twilight, and Vampire Academy was ripping from both. Yes, the first book has a lot of similarities, and personally, I think it was a marketing ploy to draw in the crowd that had finished The Deathly Hallows three months earlier and were wandering around in a post-Harry Potter daze looking for something to read. After the first book, though, a lot of the similarities fade, and an original story rooted in Irish folklore starts to emerge.

The world of The Tapestry is so well developed, especially as the series builds in the later books. One of my favorite things about Neff’s writing is that it isn’t obvious. Things like character motivations and world development are revealed gradually as Max discovers them, and Neff rarely resorts to info dumps, even though certain aspects of his story are complex. Also, Neff isn’t afraid to get dark. Even though the series is technically Middle Grade, Neff explores some hard topics and includes some gruesome scenes. Parents may want to be aware of this, especially for later books.

My biggest critique of the series is one I realized when I reread it when I was older; as a child, I don’t recall noticing that the series doesn’t have a lot of female characters. The two main characters are both boys, and while there is a plethora of diverse female side characters, they are just that: side characters. A third main character, a girl, is introduced later, but not until book three. I don’t think it detracts too much from how interesting the rest of the series is, but I understand that it could be a major drawback for some.

In conclusion, I need you all to read and fall in love with these books. They really are great, and Neff is releasing a sequel series (kind of) over the next three years. The first one, Impyrium, is already available. Mainly though, my desperate need for you to love the series is selfish.

You notice my picture up there? The fifth book was only released as an ebook. I need you to fall in love with the series so the spike in sales will encourage Penguin Random House to rerelease all the books, including The Red Winter, in gorgeous hardcover so my collection can finally be complete. Are we together on this? Alright then—go forth, and read.

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