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I read both Monster Hunter and Monster Hunter Academy for this review, so these are my thoughts on both books. I have to confess that my kids haven't read these yet (they just haven't had time recently because they are in the middle of other series), but I have no doubt in my mind that my 10-year-old son will LOVE these books and I'm pretty sure my 9-year-old daughter will enjoy them as well. (I'll post an update once they finish them).
What I loved:
- The fun and witty intros. Both books start out with a really amusing warning about how monsters are real and cautioning you that reading the book will draw monsters to you so that you will never be safe again. (Warning - if you have kids who are easily scared, this might actually get to them!). I thought it was great fun and a fantastic way to draw kids into the story, making them feel like they could actually be a part of it. Just check out this excerpt from Monster Hunter Academy (what middle grade boy wouldn't LOVE this?)
Since I can’t be certain that you read my first book about the night I found out I was a monster hunter, I should start out with a warning.
First, monsters are real. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons; you name it. In fact they are more common than you could ever imagine. Second, this book is not make-believe. This is a truthful account of my life as a monster hunter and the mysterious circumstances that seem to constantly surround me. Third, reading this book makes you fair game for monsters.
You heard me right: the simple act of reading this book will attract monsters to you and give them the go-ahead to attack. Usually, if you were under fourteen years old, you would be safe by the Law of Quattuordecim, an ancient truce between man and monster that protects non-combatant children on both sides until sundown on their fourteenth birthday. I blew it by attacking a monster that was trying to eat someone I knew the day before my birthday. You’re about to blow it by reading this book.
If you’re over fourteen, you are already at risk for monster attacks, but in reality they are few and far between. Still, by reading this book, you are guaranteeing they will come after you. So don’t come crying to me if a rock troll chops off your feet or a harpy eats one of your eyeballs. The choice is yours.
However, if you decide to turn the page, you’ll be reading about the Monster Hunter Academy, a place no non-monster hunter has ever seen or heard about before. What happened there is not for those with weak stomachs or for those who are easily upset. There is blood and gore and death and, like it or not, some kissing. But there is also an adventure unlike anything you have ever seen before.So turn the page if you dare. The adventure starts now.
- The action. These books are full of monster fighting action, sure to please your average middle grade boy. The fighting sometimes gets intense. (Although it's not gory or age inappropriate, if you have a sensitive child, these scenes could be bothersome). The book lives up to its name - Jack is a monster hunter and he ends up battling LOTS of monsters.
- The high stakes. Unlike in some books for middle graders, everyone is not safe. In fact, characters die. The heightened stakes make those action scenes that I just mentioned that much more intense because you're never quite sure if everyone is going to make it.
- The characters. Jack is a character that lots of boys can connect to - an average boy put into extraordinary circumstances. Even though he suddenly gains immense strength, he doesn't instantly turn into a fearless hero. Instead he sometimes lets others down and he struggles with whether or not he can handle the pressure. Meanwhile, his friend Will is oozing confidence and courage, sometimes making Jack feel that he can't possibly be the hero everyone is searching for. Their other friend, T-Rex is a fun character who suffers from anxiety and low self-esteem (partly from being bullied). I especially loved him in the second book, when he truly discovered his importance and owned it!
What I didn't like:
- Its similarities to that "other" series. I have to confess that I was a bit afraid that this series would be a Lightning Thief copycat, just using monsters instead of mythological creatures. I was especially worried when I saw that book two took place at a monster fighting academy (hmmm... Camp Halfblood anyone?). However, I will say that, in the end, while some comparisons could certainly be made, I felt that the Jack Templar books stood on their own. These books will definitely appeal to fans of Riordan, but they aren't a rehash of his books. It's a win-win as far as I'm concerned!
- Very few adult influences. Besides Jack's aunt (who is present only in the first book) and the leader of the Monster Academy (in the second book), there are no other adults in these books (unless you count the enemies!). Will's parents are abusive (though this is not directly seen in the books, it is referred to) and T-Rex's grandma is senile. While I understand how these things helped propel the story, I kind of wished that there had been one or two more positive examples of adults in the kids' lives.
I would highly recommend these books to anyone who loves adventure and fantasy. Riordan fans will definitely love this series! Honestly, I felt like I had to be very nitpicky to even come up with negatives about this book - it's exactly what a middle grade fantasy should be. I am definitely looking forward to the next installment! 5/5 Stars.
***Disclosure: This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and my review was not affected in any way. All opinions are my own***
Awards for Jack Templar Monster Hunter
Book of the Year Finalist by Forward Magazine
Next Generation Indie Book Finalist
Indie Excellence Finalist
Parents Choice Recommended Book Award