Jack Smith, who will be 14 tomorrow, is headed off to school for another boring, mundane day. Or perhaps not. He’s feeling stronger, faster, more agile than ever before. And strange things keep happening – like the creepy dude of pale skin on the way to school who wished him an early happy birthday. Then there was challenging the school bully while protecting his friend, and winning. But things got really weird with the principle, who seems to be more monster than school matron. Pretty soon, Jack is caught up in battling monsters left and right, his aunt is more than she seems, and the Monster Hunters (a secret society) need Jack because he may be the ‘One’.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read filled with plenty of action and monsters out of myths and legends. While it has a definite Young Adult genre feel to it, we also had some darker issues in the background which gave it a touch of seriousness that pulled it all together for me. Jack is a fun kid who has a secret identity that even he isn’t aware of at the start of the story. He has a crush on a girl at school, but is too shy to do anything about it. He has 2 friends in the school who are both outcasts (each for different reasons). And his parents died when he was kid, leaving him to be raised by his Aunt Sophie (who has secrets of her own).
Then in steps Eva and she is an awesome one-handed (the other being whatever weapon she needs at the time that can screw on to her stump cover) Monster Hunter. She shows up and starts explaining the rules of the whole Creach society (the monsters – creatures) and what the Black Guard (Monster Hunters) are all about. However, she keeps getting interrupted by this flow of monsters who want Jack either dead or captured. This creates a great pacing of the story, where we get these little tidbits of background in between action scenes. No big info dumps here!
But if you are concerned that this is just one big monster slayer fest, don’t worry! Some of these ‘monsters’ have more going on for them. Of course, this leads to grief and consternation for some of the Monster Hunters. That was quite OK with me, as it added another layer to the story and left plenty for the author to explore in future installments of the series.
The book does break the fourth wall and speak directly to the reader several times through out the tale. Mostly, this is Jack telling us (the readers) to beware! Horrid monsters will hunt us if we read this book! While I didn’t exactly dislike these sections, I felt that they were so much younger than the tale itself and the break in narration always took me out of the story. I think I would have preferred to just let the story speak for itself.
What I Liked: The cover art; Jack is easy to get attached to; monsters galore!; not all the characters (including the monsters) are what they seem at first glance; loyalty of friends; Jack’s secret past.
What I Disliked: The narration breaks at several points so that Jack can speak directly to the readers, and this kept taking out of the story when I just wanted to stay in the story.