Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Childrens for providing an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Synopsis: 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.
Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den is a pretty decent start to a new children’s series, but despite some great world-building and an action packed story, the characters need a lot more development if this is going to be successful in the long run.
Simon himself is perfectly written, and between his appealing personality and his underdog status, I think kids will relate to him. What was problematic for me, were the secondary characters and Simon’s relationships with them. At best, they’re extremely shallow and lack any kind of an emotional connection. To be fair though, the author jams a lot of world-building into this 320 page book, so I’m hoping she’ll focus more on the characters in subsequent books.
The world-building is quite phenomenal and unique. Aimee Carter has created a fascinating mythology which does a wonderful job not only capturing the Animalgam world, but also the intricate politics at play. The story is very fast-paced and I finished it in one sitting. There are quite a few twists and turns and the ending caught me by surprise.
This is the first middle-grade novel by Aimee Carter, who up until now has been a popular YA author. I’ve been a fan of hers for years and I have little doubt that Simon Thorn will end up being another successful series for her. Despite the flaws with its characters, this is one of those books that make me wish I was still a children’s librarian, because I’d be recommending it to just about all of the upper elementary and middle-school kids that walked through the doors. I’m looking forward to seeing where she takes Simon next.