The Secrets of Hawthorne House: Review
The Secrets of Hawthorne House
by Donald Firesmith
Genre: YA/MG Urban Fantasy
Matt’s life changes forever when a family of druids moves into the dilapidated Victorian mansion next door. The story of an unlikely friendship, the clash of two completely different cultures, secret magic, and a search for the lost Hawthorne treasure.
Fifteen-year-old Matt Mitchell was having the worst summer imaginable. Matt’s misery started when a drunk driver killed his mother. Then his father moved him and his twin sister to the small town of Hawthorne in rural Indiana, as far as his grieving father could take from the ocean that Matt’s mother had loved. At the new high school, three bullies are determined to make Matt miserable. And to top it off, Matt learns that the recluse who lives in the ‘haunted house” next door is none other than Old Lady Hawthorne, the town’s infamous witch and murderer. Matt’s terrible summer is turning into an awful autumn when something quite unexpected happens. Old Lady Hawthorne’s niece and her three children arrive, and Matt meets Gerallt.
The story opens with POV Matt Mitchell having a recurring nightmare. 15-yr-old Matt and his twin sister Tina are still reeling from their Dad moving them from the seaside town of Port Orford Oregon to Hawthorne Indiana where he grew up. With both kids still very much mourning the loss of their mother the story moves onto their first day at a new school. Matt and his sister wait out the front of their new house for the school bus, this is when we first get a glimpse of Hawthorn House through Matt’s perspective. The Bus arrives and Matt steps up onto the school bus after his sister and takes the only available seat next to a girl who promptly starts telling him ghost/wicked witch stories about the house next door to his. And so, the mystery of Hawthorn House begins.
Matt ends up having a rather rough first day at Hawthorne High, managing to get in the school bullies’ way almost instantly. BUT It’s not long before there is a new boy in Matt’s year that’s even more of an outsider than he is, Gerallt Hawthorne. After the loss of his father Gerallt, his mother, sister and little brother move into their great aunt’s house, the creepy mansion that is Hawthorn House.
The First 50% of this book was really good; The boys meet and grow to become friends, hang out together and bond over being outsiders and the fact they have both recently lost a parent. Together the boys find the courage to stand up to and then outsmart the bullies. A fantastic tale filled with the power of friendship. Drop the boys from 15 to 12 and it would have made an adorable, heart-warming, well rounded and fun MG novel.
But there is still more story to come!
Before the end of the book we have two more story arcs. One involving Gerallt teaching Matt the Hawthorne ways and then the theft of a Hawthorne artefact. Of course, the boys must figure out who stole the artefact and then get it back. Then at 80% we get another new story arc in all the main characters searching for the Hawthorne family’s lost treasure. I think the latter two story arcs deserved to be expanded on, rather than cramped into the second half of the first book.
All and all, this was a very clean and innocent feeling, magic filled YA (hence my age dropping MG suggestion). Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read, with my only qualm being the later story plots deserved more fleshing out – I’m asking for more, so I’d say that’s a positive thing!
Also, I loved the List of spells at the back!
A geek by day, Donald Firesmith works as a system and software engineer helping the US Government acquire large, complex software-intensive systems. In this guise, he has authored seven technical books, written numerous software- and system-related articles and papers, and spoken at more conferences than he can possibly remember. He’s also proud to have been named a Distinguished Engineer by the Association of Computing Machinery, although his pride is tempered somewhat by his fear that the term “distinguished” makes him sound like a graybeard academic rather than an active engineer whose beard is still slightly more red than gray.
By night and on weekends, his alter ego writes modern paranormal fantasy, apocalyptic science fiction, action and adventure novels and relaxes by handcrafting magic wands from various magical woods and mystical gemstones. His first foray into fiction is the book Magical Wands: A Cornucopia of Wand Lore written under the pen name Wolfrick Ignatius Feuerschmied. He lives in Crafton, Pennsylvania with his wife Becky, and his son Dane, and varying numbers of dogs, cats, and birds.
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