Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den is a welcome addition to young male readers’ bookshelves [Review]

John Millen |

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Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den

By Aimée Carter
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 1 4099 5801 1

Young teenage boys are having a tough time at the moment if they are looking an interesting new action hero of their own age with a thrilling story to tell. So, thank you Aimee Carter for bringing us Simon Thorn and filling more than a few gaping holes in the market. Carter is an established young adult novelist, and her new 12-year-old protagonist is a winner.

Life hasn’t exactly been an easy road for Simon. He’s been bullied at school since first grade, and has learned to accept it. His mother is a zoologist who trails the world for her job, and Simon has lived most of his life with his controlling Uncle Darryl in a cramped apartment in New York.

But Simon, who longs for a normal, happy life and acceptance by his peers, has a big secret. He can talk to animals and they can talk back to him. Regular conversations with the pigeons who clutter up the fire escape outside his room and heart-to-hearts with the mouse who lives in the wardrobe are normal, everyday occurrences for Simon.

It’s a struggle, sometimes, to keep this side of his personality a secret. He doesn’t question it anymore, and doesn’t tell any other human. After all, who would understand? It’s just the way he is. Carter is very careful when she introduces this talking-to-animals aspect of the story; less cleverly done and the whole premise of the novel could have gone out of the window and lost as nonsense.

But Carter gets readers rooting for Simon from page one, andis no slouch in getting things going once readers have met him. When Simon is attacked by rats on his way to school. he learns that his mother has been kidnapped and that Uncle Darryl can turn himself into a wolf.

It turns out that Simon, his mother and uncle are Animalgams, people who can change into an animal at will. Carter now pulls off a slightly unbelievable plot leap, but makes it work: underneath New York’s Central Park, Simon discovers an academy that teaches young Animalgams like himself how to accept their destiny.

There he learns that the five secret kingdoms that make up the hidden world of the Animalgams are under threat, and there is only one person/Animalgam who can save things. No prizes for guessing who ...

Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den is imaginative, persuasively written and introduces a new hero with lots of mileage ahead of him. Carter’s magical world and her re-imagined New York are full of adventure and thrills. Simon will be back next year in a new adventure, but for the time being, The Wolf’s Den is a dangerous, exciting and thrilling place to be.

John Millen can be contacted on [email protected].