Simon Thorn Series by Aimee Carter
Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels. Today we have a dual review for the first two books in the Simon Thorn series by Aimee Carter. In this thrilling, middle-grade series featuring animal shapeshifters, Simon Thorn is a twelve-year-old boy who’s about to discover his true heritage – and the dangers that come with it.
I received an ARC or review copy of one of these books from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.
Publisher’s Description: Twelve-year-old Simon Thorn’s life has never been normal-especially since he’s been keeping a big secret: he can talk to animals.
But when his mom is suddenly kidnapped by a herd of New York City rats, Simon finds out that he, his mom, and his uncle are all Animalgams-someone born with the ability to change into an animal at will-and suddenly talking to animals doesn’t seem so crazy after all.
In search of his mom, Simon discovers that Animalgams belong to an ancient world made up of Five Animal Kingdoms (Mammals, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, and Underwater) which are now under attack…and Simon just may be the only one who can save them all.
Imaginative and vivid with themes of bravery, loyalty, and finding one’s true self, this exciting, five-book adventure series is perfect for fans of the Spirit Animals and The School of Good and Evil series.
Publisher’s Description: The excitement continues for the secret race of animal shape-shifters with a hero “worthy of a young Harry Potter” (Booklist Online).
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 Animalgams and their own doubts and torn loyalties 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.
With action and adventure, this story is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Kat Mandu says…
Simon’s young and living in New York City. His best friend is a mouse named Felix because Simon actually doesn’t have any friends. The one he did have has abandoned him for the “cooler crowd” due to an incident in which Simon was caught talking to a few animals. Now he’s the “freaky” kid that no one wants to be around. However, that all changes the day he’s warned by a bald eagle that his life is in danger, his mother makes an unexpected return home, and suddenly, he and his uncle get chased by vicious rats. As Simon realizes there may be more to his ability to talk to animals, he’s pulled into the world of the Animalgams.
In the Animalgam world, there are five kingdoms: mammals, birds, insects, underwater, and reptiles. There’s even a secret academy in Central Park Zoo where he meets an uncle he never knew he had, and more, a twin brother! Finally, Simon is meeting kids close to his age that have known they could turn into animals their whole lives. But the more Simon learns about this world, the more he doesn’t like, especially when he discovers he’s a pawn in a chess game between the mammal Alpha, his mother, his grandfather, and the rest of the kingdom leaders.
In the first book, Simon is dealing with learning about the world he’s never known about and the people who will eventually become his family; not to mention fighting in a war between the five kingdoms. In the second book, the stakes are higher. Simon is trying to figure out his place in the Animalgam world, avoid getting picked off by the warring bird kingdom (which is led by his manipulative grandfather) and the old Alpha of the mammal kingdom, and save his mom from Orion.
For me, these books had most of the usual MG expectations. Good story, albeit having a lot of “convenient” rescues; kids who seem to think they can get away unscathed in sticky situations, no matter who’s trying to protect them; and the absence of any real parenting skills that force the character to adapt and evolve in his own way. It has funny one-liners, lots of “aww” moments, and lots of child-like humor that’s often cute.
However, after having a chat with co-blogger and friend Ivana, I realized that this particular series is missing something huge that all children’s’ books have. Where’s the moral of the story here? I’ve read both books by now and I’m either missing the lesson the lead character learns or it’s just not there. Sure, there’s a great plot. But what is the reader learning?
Frankly, Simon bugs me. I’m not fond of his character. I’m drawn more to Ariana and Jam, two of his friends. Simon is undeniably one of the biggest brats I’ve ever read in MG. I get that he’s twelve. I really do. But he’s unnecessarily defiant and bullheaded. He’s also extremely hypocritical, chastising one of the girls – Winter, who also becomes his friend – for the same things he does, lying and not knowing what side she’s on. He’s not exactly choosing a side when he runs away from the people that want to protect him every chance he gets.
I don’t have any children of my own (yet). But I’m certain if I did, I’d have a hard time allowing my son or daughter to read this series. The reasoning behind Simon’s actions just isn’t enough to excuse his continual lack of respect for the people who care for him. He’s just too defiant for me to like him, and I don’t think he’s a good role model for kids.
That being said, I enjoyed the story. It has its ups and down and it’s certainly entertaining! Like I said, I’m very fond of Jam, who’s a dolphin; and Ariana, who’s a Black Widow spy (pretty sure that’s a shout out to Marvel as well). They provide some cool getaways and fun dialogue.
Both these books get three stars from me!
I received an ARC or review copy of one of these from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.