Children's Literature - Anita Barnes Lowen
If you've read the first book in "The Tapestry" series (and you should), you already know that Max McDaniels and David Menlo are students at Rowan Academy, a school for kids with unusual talents. Now, the two are destined to come face-to-face with the demon Astaroth, who covets the Book of Thoth. The Book is a living record of all truenames, and the one who possesses and learns its secrets will gain mastery over the world. Young David has the power to unlock the key that will lead the boys to the Book. Max is sworn to protect Davidno matter what. In doing so, he may become the greatest hero of his age. From the safety of Rowan Academy, their quest takes them to the fabulous Frankfurt Workshop and on to Ireland where after days (or is it weeks? months? years?) they take possession of the Book. But what awaits them on their return? Has the chaos of the world breached the walls of Rowan? Are Astaroth and his army poised to take alleven the hard-won Book? The action is fast-moving, and the pages virtually burst with an incredible cast of characters, two of the most engaging (admittedly in a gross sort of way) of whom are the reformed hags, Mum and Bellagrog. Mum, in any case, seems to have given up attempts to eat Rowan students (although she still makes David nervous). Although there are parallels to Harry Potter, this tale is highly original and a great choice for all who love fantasy. Illustrated with black-and-white drawings by the author. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen
School Library Journal
Fans of The Hound of Rowan (Random, 2007) will love this sequel. Those who haven't read the first book will simply be puzzled. In their second year at Rowan Academy, Max McDaniels and his roommate David Menlo, a mystic, discover that they must live with the Witches to fulfill a pact made years before they were born. To keep them and the Book of Thoth safe from the demon Astaroth and in the hands of Rowan agents, they are "kidnapped" by an ally. While on the run, the Red Branch offers to activate Max to be its newest agent. Initially, Max demurs but after dodging danger in Europe, finding his mother in the land of the Sidh, discovering his real father's identity, and having several harrowing encounters with Astaroth, he embraces his identity as the reincarnation of Cuchulain and joins as a full-fledged agent. The Second Siege is chock-full of magic, myth, and adventure, and has some fun and interesting characters and an intense, engaging plot. That said, without the background information from the first book, it will be hard for readers to follow.-Lisa Prolman, Greenfield Public Library, MA
A series about an American academy of magic takes a dark turn in this sequel to The Hound of Rowan (2007). Max McDaniels is the chosen guardian of his magically powerful but physically weak roommate David Menlo. Their nemesis, the recently freed demon Astaroth, wishes to get his hands on the all-powerful Book of Thoth, and it's up to Max and David to find it first and keep it safe. Tensions within the school and in the outside world threaten to destroy our heroes' will, and in the end it falls on them to determine what is best for their friends and family. There is very little catching-up in this book, so readers will need to have read the previous novel to follow much of the action. Remarkably, given the breakneck pace, Neff's writing moves from scene to scene without breaking stride or ever pushing the action too far. Characters and motivations remain clear, though the surprise ending will leave certain readers reeling. After devouring this title, young fans will clamor for more. (Fantasy. 11-15)
Read an Excerpt
~ 1 ~
Deep within a tangled corner of Rowan’s Sanctuary, Max McDaniels crouched beneath a canopy of sagging pines. It had been ten minutes since he had spied a dark shape slinking among the gray foothills far below, and Max knew his pursuer would now be close. He unsheathed his knife, using the blade’s coat of phosphoroil to study the crude map he’d scrawled before setting out. The target was still far away. At this rate, he would never make it—this opponent was much faster than the others.
Shaking off the unpleasant realities, Max concentrated instead on the illusion he had created. The phantasm was a perfect replica of Max, down to its wavy black hair and the sharp, dark features that peered cautiously from a high perch in a nearby tree. He had taken care to mark the surrounding terrain with subtle signs of passage, knowing that a trained eye would spot them.
The shrill cry of a bird shattered the pre-dawn stillness.
Something was coming.
Max’s pulse quickened. He scanned the switchback below for any sign of his pursuer, but there was only the smell of damp earth and the low sigh of the wind as it blew tatters of mist across the mountain.
While the sky brightened to a thin wash of blue, Max watched and waited, still as a stone among the roots and nettles. Just when he had decided to abandon his position, a flicker of motion caught his eye.
One of the trees was creeping up the mountainside.
At least he had thought the shape was a tree—one of several bent and broken saplings clinging precariously to the slope’s dry soil. Slowly, however, the silhouette straightened and began to thread its way up through the sparse wood. It crept toward Max’s double, as dark and shrouded as a specter. When the figure was some twenty feet away, Max realized why he had been unable to shake the pursuer.
It was Cooper.
The Agent’s scarred and ruined face looked like a fractured mask of weathered bone. His pale skin was camouflaged with dirt; his telltale shoots of blond hair were tucked beneath a black skullcap. Reaching the base of the tree on which Max’s double was perched, he drew a thin knife from a sheath on his forearm. Its blade gleamed with phosphoroil.
Cooper began climbing the tree with the fluid ease of a spider.
While the Agent climbed, Max’s pupils slowly dilated. Terrible energies filled his wiry form, making his fingers twitch and tremble.
Max sprang from his hiding place.
Cooper’s head cocked at the sound as Max hurtled toward him with his knife.
Max’s weapon struck home, but instead of meeting flesh and bone, it passed through the figure to thud against the tree in a spray of bark. Cooper’s conjured decoy dissolved in a billow of black smoke and Max realized he’d been duped.
Max whipped his head around and spied the real Cooper darting out from a nearby thicket. The Agent closed the distance in five long strides. Shifting his knife to his left hand, Max swung himself up into the tree as Cooper’s blade whistled past his ribs.
Cooper seized Max’s wrist in a grip of iron. “You’re caught,” he hissed.
With a terrible wrench, Max pulled himself free and sliced his own knife across Cooper’s shoulder, leaving a bright line of phosphoroil on the black fabric. Cooper gave a grunt of surprise. Slashing the Agent again, Max leapt clear of the tree.
In one fluid movement, Max landed and bolted up the path, veering right at the fork and dashing up the steep trail he had marked on the map. Cooper trotted after him, apparently unconcerned that Max was increasing his lead with a burst of Amplified speed. Ignoring Cooper for the moment, Max focused his attention on the coppery summit as he raced up the mountain, climbing steadily above the timberline.
It was ten minutes of hard running before Max spied a small white pennant fluttering from a distant peak of jagged rock. He fixed its position in his memory and grinned in spite of himself. Another ten minutes at this pace and he would be victorious.
As he ran on, however, his breathing was reduced to shallow gasps and then to agonizing, frantic swallows as the air became unbearably thin. A quick glance behind revealed that Cooper had closed to a hundred yards and was running as evenly as ever. Max spat on the path and increased his pace, coughing as he climbed.
The pennant was tantalizingly close, but the pain and dizziness became overwhelming. Tiny motes of light swam before Max’s eyes; his mouth felt as if it were full of hot sand. Stumbling over a rock, he spilled onto the ground, scraping his knee and dropping his knife. He scrambled to his feet just as a blurred shape came into view.
Cooper stood ten feet away, his sturdy black boot planted squarely on the hilt of Max’s knife.
The Agent’s eyes were locked on Max. His chest rose and fell in long, slow breaths as he flicked a cold glance at the red patch on Max’s uniform. The patch was a target, positioned directly over Max’s heart. A successful strike there signified a kill and would bring the exercise to an abrupt finish.
“Do you submit?” came Cooper’s clipped Cockney accent.
Max paused a moment, crouched in a defensive posture while he considered Cooper’s offer.
The very instant Max made his decision, the Agent reacted so swiftly, it was as though he had read Max’s mind. Before Max had even moved, Cooper flicked his wrist and sent the thin black knife darting toward the patch on Max’s chest.
From the Hardcover edition.