MAX MCDANIELS LIVES a quiet life in the suburbs of Chicago, until the day he stumbles upon a mysterious Celtic tapestry. Many strange people are interested in Max and his tapestry. His discovery leads him to Rowan Academy, a secret school where great things await him.But dark things are waiting, too. When Max learns that priceless artworks and gifted children are disappearing, he finds himself in the crossfire of an ancient struggle between good and evil. To survive, he'll have to rely on a network of agents and mystics, the genius of his roommate, and the frightening power awakening within him.From the Hardcover edition.
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Random House Books for Young Readers
September 23, 2007
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Excerpt from The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff
The Boy, the Train, and the Tapestry
Max McDaniels pressed his forehead against the train window and watched storm clouds race across the yellow sky. With a soft patter, rain began to streak the glass, and the sky darkened to a bruise. Fogging the window, Max blinked at his own watery reflection in the glass. It blinked back at him: a dark-eyed boy with wavy black hair and his mother's sharp cheekbones.
His father's voice rumbled beside him, and Max turned in his seat.
"Which do you like better?" his father asked with an enthusiastic grin. He held a pair of glossy advertisements between his thick fingers. Max looked at the ads, his gaze settling on the image of an elegant woman at a kitchen sink, her head thrown back in amusement.
"Not that one," he said. "It's way too cheesy."
Mr. McDaniels's broad, smiling face drooped. Big as a bear, Max's father had pale blue eyes and a deep, dimpled chin.
"It's not cheesy," he protested, squinting at the ad and smoothing his tuft of thinning brown hair. "What's cheesy about it?"
"Nobody's that happy doing dishes," said Max, pointing at the beaming woman up to her elbows in suds. "And nobody does the dishes in a fancy dress--"
"But that's the whole point!" interrupted his father, waving the flimsy ad about. "Ambrosia is the first 'ultra-premium' dish soap! A heavenly lather that's soft enough for the tub, but still has muscle for the toughest--"
Max flushed. "Dad . . ."
Mr. McDaniels paused long enough to see the other passengers glancing curiously at them. With a snort, he slipped the ads back inside his raincoat as the train came to a temporary stop on the outskirts of the city.
"It's not so bad," Max reassured him. "Maybe you could just make her smile a little less toothy."
Mr. McDaniels chuckled and promptly slid his ample bottom across the seat to squish his son. Max elbowed back as more people crowded onto the train, collapsing umbrellas and shaking the wet hair from their eyes.
Thunder shook the car and the train started to move again. The passengers shrieked and laughed as the cabin went dark. Max squeezed his father's arm, and the train's yellow lights flickered slowly back to life. The rain fell harder now as they neared Chicago, a looming backdrop of steel and brick set in stark relief against the summer storm.
Max was still grinning when he saw the man.
He was sitting across the aisle in the row behind them, pale and unkempt, with short black hair still damp from the rain. He appeared exhausted; his eyelids fluttered as he slouched low in his dirty coat and mouthed silent words against the window.
Max turned away for a moment, swiveling for a better look. He caught his breath.
The man was staring at him.
He sat perfectly still as he focused on Max with a startling pair of mismatched eyes. While one eye was green, the other gleamed as wet and white as a peeled egg. Max stared back at it, transfixed. It looked to be a blind, dead thing--a thing of nightmares.
But Max knew somehow that this eye was not blind or dead. He knew he was being studied by it--appraised in the way his mother used to examine a glass of wine or an old photograph. Holding Max's gaze, the man eased his head up off the glass and shifted his weight toward the aisle.
The train entered a tunnel, and the car went dark. A spasm of fear overcame Max. He buried his face in his father's warm coat. Mr. McDaniels grunted and dropped several product brochures onto the floor. The train eased to a stop, and Max heard his father's voice.
"You falling asleep on me, Max? Get your things together--we're here, kiddo."
Max looked up to find the car was light and passengers were shuffling toward the exits. His eyes darted from face to face. The strange man was nowhere to be seen. Flushed, Max gathered his umbrella and sketchbook and hurried out after his father.
The station was crowded with people milling to and from platforms. Voices droned over loudspeakers; weekend shoppers scurried about with bags and children in tow. Mr. McDaniels steered Max down the escalator toward the exits. The rain had stopped, but the sky was still threatening and newspapers eddied about the street in sudden fits of flight. Arriving at a line of yellow taxis, Mr. McDaniels opened the door to one and stood aside to let Max scoot across the long vinyl seat.
"The Art Institute, please," said his father.
Max craned his neck, straining to glimpse the tops of the skyscrapers as the cab headed east toward the lake.
"Dad," said Max. "Did you see that man on the train?"
"He was sitting across the aisle in the row behind us," Max said, shuddering.
"No, I don't think so," said his father, flicking some lint off his raincoat. "What was so special about him?"
"I don't know. He was scary-looking and he was staring at me. He looked like he was going to say something or come over right before we went into the tunnel."