Friday, November 25, 2016

Henry Hunter and the Beast of Snagov by John Matthews, 2014

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Adolphus Pringle lived a relatively normal life before he met Henry Hunter, but being the best friend of a twelve-year-old millionaire genius certainly makes life interesting. He has accompanied Henry on adventures all over the world and encountered dozens of supernatural creatures. Henry has a penchant for paranormal mysteries, and he never fails to drag his trusty sidekick, Dolf, into adventures to track down the truth in these mystical legends.

Henry announces one morning that he and Dolf are going to go in search of a creature more terrifying than Dracula himself: the Beast of Snagov. The pair of supernatural investigators travel from where Bram Stoker stayed in Whitby to Transylvania. Along the way they come across some strange things such as Dracula’s daughter, Bella, and an organization called the Order of the Dragon that wants to sacrifice Henry Hunter to the Beast of Snagov. When Henry is taken, it’s up to Dolf and Bella to team up and rescue him!

Will Henry survive this supernatural adventure? Get ready to discover the world of the supernatural through the eyes of our spooked narrator as he tags along on the first adventure in the Henry Hunter series!
(240 pages)

This is the second Halloween-themed book that I've read in the past week, the first one being Monsterville. As I wrote in my review, I really loved that book and was totally in the mood for another creepy Halloween-type novel. Luckily, I had another monster-themed Sky Pony Press book sitting on my shelf: Henry Hunter. I jumped right into it after finishing Monsterville, and was expecting great things.

Honestly, though, it just didn't really hit me the right way. Maybe it felt too much like a dumbed-down Sherlock Holmes (with monsters instead of an actual crime, and a stereotypical twelve-year-old genius millionaire robot rather than the brilliant, enigmatic and flawed human being we get in Sherlock). Maybe I couldn't get over the unrealistic premise of two young boys wandering into all sorts of terrible danger, with no adult ever even attempting to stand in their way. Maybe I didn't like how vanilla and clueless Dolf was–like the worst of Watson and Hastings and movie-Ron all jumbled together.

Maybe I'm just too old for this book. I think that's really the bottom line, I've simply reached the age where I want more subtlety and dynamism than Henry Hunter could offer. Honestly, I think it's quite a good book for kids who are in middle school. It's got vampires and backwoods Transylvania, cool creepy ancient castles, and a big ole' monster that the main characters need to defeat in the end. If I were five years younger, I think I'd probably have loved reading about the wealthy, independent Henry who spoke dozens of languages and knew practically everything. I would have lapped up the story just as quickly as I devoured, say, the 39 Clues series–which also featured hyper-intelligent children entrusted with large sums of money and zipping around the planet practically on their own.

I don't know, there's probably a pretty good chance that your kid would like this if they're in middle school. If you're looking for some slightly creepier books to give them that aren't really macabre, then this might be just the thing. I can't say I really recommend it to anyone older than middle school, though, just because there are so many other books out there. I don't know that it really stands out from the crowd enough to demand the attention of anyone over the age of about twelve.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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