Author: Aimee Carter
Genre: supernatural fiction, fantasy
Series: Simon Thorn #1
Source: received for review from publisher
Twelve-year-old Simon Thorn’s life has never been easy or normal, but things like being bullied at school and living in a cramped Manhattan apartment with his Uncle Darrell are nothing compared to his biggest secret: He can talk to animals.
But when his mom is suddenly kidnapped by a herd of rats, Simon finds out that he, his mom, and his uncle are all Animalgams—people born with the ability to change into an animal at will.
In search of his mom, Simon discovers the Animalgam Academy based at the Central Park Zoo. There he learns about the fractured five kingdoms that make up this secret world . . . and realizes he may be the only one who can save it.
This action-packed page-turner is perfect for fans of the Spirit Animals and The School of Good and Evil series.
Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den is pretty engaging and a good introduction into magical and fantasy-type stories for young readers. Is it the kind of middle grade that transcends age and appeals to readers of all ages? I think that depends on how much UF and fantasy older readers have experienced before starting this series. Simon Thorn and the Wolf's Den is a fun and fast read but it doesn't do anything that new. But for the middle grade age readers this story about shape-shifting Animalgams is aimed at? I think Simon will make for a fun and engaging read.
Though there are new aspects to the story of misfit and loner Simon, my main issue is that it all feels so familiar. The hero and his friends fighting to find freedom/parents/mythological weapon. It's Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and a lot of other recognizable tropes... Carter has promise with her world of magical animal kingdoms but she needs more depth to that world. More detail that feels original instead of recycled. Not all the animal-shifting kingdoms are fully explored here, but that was obviously going to be covered in future sequels. I found the adaptions of the human/animals aspects to be pretty clever.
I wanted to like the story (and at times I did) and I was also impressed at one or two twists, but there's not too much about it that will stick out in my memory when I attempt to remember this book when the next comes out. Simon Thorn and its eponymous hero may grow up into a strong series but this was an adequate beginning.