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Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Children’s for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

304 Pages

Synopsis: Simon Thorn’s life is almost unrecognizable from a few months ago. Along with a surprise twin brother and an uncle he never knew, Simon has also found his first real friends to hang out, train and, study with at the secret Animalgam Academy. The only piece missing is his mother, held captive by his evil grandfather Orion, who’s bent on taking over the five kingdoms.

To rescue his mother, Simon sets off cross-country with his friends to the reptile kingdom, battling rogue Animalgrams and their own doubts along the way. But if he’s going to stop Orion, Simon will need to keep him from gathering together the fragments of a terrible weapon, or the lives of everyone Simon loves will be at risk.

When I reviewed the first book in this series, Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den, last year, my chief complaint was that although I loved the character of Simon as well as the world building, I thought the secondary characters were shallow and need more development. Well, this is one of those instances where the sequel far surpasses the first book. I can honestly say not only were the previous shortcomings addressed, but Simon himself shows tremendous growth. Just to catch you up on things, Simon and his new friends at the Animalgam Academy can communicate and transform into animals. While this theme is similar to others who use magical schools and “chosen one” themes, there’s plenty here that makes this stand apart. Although I wish there was a little more diversity with these characters, I connected to them much more in this story. As they embark on their quest, they have to not only find their way in the real world, but battle Animalgams that have been sent to capture them. There are many different sides in play here which Simon and his friends are just beginning to discover, and as a result they can really only trust and rely on each other. And this is my favorite part of the book. Watching them not only learn how to trust and be honest with each other, but also start working together as a team to reach their goals is pure pleasure. While Simon is definitely the leader, the others don’t just blindly follow him. When he loses sight of what needs to be focused on, they speak up while still being supportive. This is all done in a realistic fashion that I think many kids will relate to. The world building continues to expand and you see even more Animalgam communities as well as there being more at stake. There’s plenty of action from beginning to end which also makes this a quick read. I think this is shaping up to be a fun and enjoyable series for children in the 9-12 age range who enjoy authors like J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. I’m definitely hooked and am looking forward to the next book in the series.