Friday, June 21, 2013

5 Star Review & $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway: Jack Templar and the Monster Hunter Academy (The Templar Chronicles #2) by Jeff Gunhus

  monster hunter tour
Jack Templar and the Monster Hunter Academy (Book 2) After barely surviving the onslaught of monsters that tried to kill him the day before his fourteenth birthday, Jack Templar leaves his hometown on a quest to rescue his father and discover the truth about his past. Joined by his friends Will and T-Rex, and led by Eva, the mysterious one-handed monster hunter, Jack sets out for the Monster Hunter Academy where he hopes to find answers to his questions. Little does he suspect that the Academy is filled with dangers of its own, many of them more terrifying than anything he’s faced so far.
Jack Templar: Monster Hunter Orphan Jack Templar has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. The day before Jack's fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him. At first it's great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend "T-Rex" from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he's the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he's destined to be in the family business. Second, that there's a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits...until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him. As if that weren't enough, things get even more complicated when Jack discovers that the Lord of the Creach (as the monsters are collectively known) holds a personal grudge against him and will do anything to see that Jack has a slow and painful death. To stay alive and save his friends, Jack will have to battle werewolves, vampires, harpies, trolls, zombies and more. But perhaps the most dangerous thing he must face is the truth about his past. Why do the other hunters call him the last Templar? Why do they whisper that he may be the "One?" Why do the monsters want him dead so badly? Even as these questions plague him, he quickly discovers survival is his new full-time job and that in the world of monster hunters, nothing is really what it seems.
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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                            

Author Jeff Gunhus grew up in Cyprus, Greece, and Saudi Arabia where there was a distinct lack of television. He quickly found books were the gateway to incredible adventures, fascinating characters and unbelievable discoveries. Now, with five children of his own (all who watch too much television, in his opinion), he has enjoyed revisiting his old books and reliving those adventures all over again.
Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 7/8/13 a Rafflecopter giveaway  


  1. I am ok with Percy Jackson like books. In fact, I need more of them. My son might love this series! I hope I can win it for him! I was glad to hear that you think the series stands on its own. That would be my concern too! Thanks for your great balanced review!!

    Here's my list of Percy Jackson like books. We finished the Riordan books so we are frantically looking for more.

  2. I always enjoy these types of books. Thanks for sharing on the Kid Lit Blog Hop. Cheryl, Hop Hostess

  3. Mythical monsters, grand adventures...yes, please! Wanted to say thank you for introducing us to a new adventure author. When so many books that appeal to boys also appeal to a baser sense of humor, a series which concentrates on the grander sense of adventure is always welcome. Thanks again and hope to see you again soon on the hop!