Henry Hunter and the Snagov Beast
By John Matthews
Hardcover, 229 pages
2016, Sky Pony Press
Henry Hunter is a clever, intelligent and well-funded young man and when Dolf finds him hanging out the window of the headmaster’s office, that’s just the start of their adventures. The first book in the series finds the duo following the tale of the Snagov Beast, a creature linked with Vlad the Impaler.
Henry feels a lot like a young Sherlock, with a dash of Indiana Jones, and Dolf is his Waston. Dolf has begun to recount his adventures with Henry (we find out why at the end of the book) and alludes to several other outings, but starts the first book with the time they traveled to Transylvanian to hunt down a beast rumored to be the creator of vampires.
I read quite a bit of middle grade and generally enjoy it, despite not being the target audience, but this book was a bit too young for me. I found myself wanting more detail in the plot and more emotion and depth from the characters.
Henry is brilliant, witty, rich and has a way of convincing adults to do what he wants them to, because, well, because that’s what Dolf says happened. I didn’t get a feel for Henry and the fact that his parents were rich scientists off doing research and couldn’t be bothered to ever check up on him, leaving him free to leave boarding school and roam the country as he wished, well, annoyed me. I couldn’t stop thinking about the logistics of two twelve-year-olds traveling unchaperoned into the dark woods of Europe and I think that was mainly because I didn’t connect with Henry or Dolf.
The action never gripped me because I couldn’t feel any reaction from Dolf – Henry being the Sherlock type was pretty devoid of emotion – and I don’t even really recall him being all that frightened at encountering actual vampires who could have killed him and his friend.
The end had what I hesitate to call a twist, but the problem was solved in about two sentences so it was devoid of any real drama or feeling. Overall, I was left underwhelmed, especially in the wake of some of the other excellent middle grade books I’ve read this year.
That being said, I might give the second book a chance to see if the characters develop further. I also think this is a great book for younger readers, in part because of the large print, but also because the story and characters are simplified for children.
I received this book for free from Sky Horse Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.