Okay, a little disclaimer before I begin: I had originally planned on having all three books reviewed today, but that's not going to happen. Not by any fault of the books themselves, it's just that I received them a few weeks later than I had originally thought that I would, and, as some of you may know, I've been a little busy and Internet-less lately. I've continued reading these books, though, and right now I'm nearly done with the second one. I really really like what I'm reading so far, I just got a bit of a late start. No need to worry, though, I will have a review of all of them up here eventually, and for today, I can give my thoughts on book one without feeling like I'm judging it before I've finished. So here goes nothing!
Matt Archer: Monster Hunter (Book 1) by Kendra C. Highley
Fourteen-year-old Matt Archer spends his days studying Algebra, hanging out with his best friend and crushing on the Goddess of Greenhill High, Ella Mitchell. To be honest, he thinks his life is pretty lame until he discovers something terrifying on a weekend camping trip at the local state park.
Monsters are real. And living in his backyard.
But that's not the half of it. After Matt is forced to kill a strange creature to save his uncle, he finds out that the weird knife he took from his uncle's bag has a secret, one that will change Matt's life. The knife was designed with one purpose: to hunt monsters. And it's chosen Matt as its wielder.
Now Matt's part of a world he didn't know existed, working with a covert military unit dedicated to eliminating walking nightmares. Faced with a prophecy about a looming dark war, Matt soon realizes his upcoming Algebra test is the least of his worries.
His new double life leaves Matt wondering which is tougher: hunting monsters or asking Ella Mitchell for a date?
Matt Archer: Blade's Edge (Book 2) by Kendra C. Highley
When Matt Archer was fourteen, he discovered monsters are real. As if that wasn’t enough to go on for a few decades, Matt also found out that he’d been chosen to hunt those monsters--with a sentient, supernatural knife. Now fifteen, Matt has spent the last year working with a clandestine military unit, trying to rid the world of monsters, demons and other vicious creatures, all while keeping it a secret from nearly everyone he knows back home in Billings.
Including his mom.
Add in a new girlfriend, family secrets, sibling drama and enough homework to sink an aircraft carrier, and Matt’s life has become more complicated than he ever imagined. Worse, the knife has developed some very definite opinions about Matt’s personal life and it interferes in his business whenever it wants. More and more, Matt’s coming to realize that sharing brain-space with a spirit kind of sucks.
When stories of decimated towns and hordes of zombies start pouring into the Pentagon from Afghanistan, Matt knows he’ll be called up soon. Between the new mission and the knife’s increasing control over his mind, Matt wonders if he’ll survive long enough to take his driver’s exam.
Matt Archer: Legend (Book 3) by Kendra C. Highley
When Matt Archer was fourteen, he was chosen—by a magic knife—to hunt monsters with a special paranormal division of the Army. When he was fifteen, he was introduced to a global war that the rest of the world knew very little about…and he was determined to keep it that way, no matter what happened to him.
Now Matt’s sixteen and he’s lost more than he ever thought he would. He’s also learned that the knife spirits have an agenda he doesn’t totally agree with. The only problem? The spirits have the upper hand, and they plan to control the fight—and Matt.
Now, the next eclipse cycle is starting, a prominent physicist has gone missing, and Matt’s best friend’s heart isn’t in the hunt anymore. If he loses Will—after everyone else he’s lost—Matt’s not sure how he’ll fight alone.
Oh, and there’s one more thing. The SATs are coming.
And you thought high school was hard…
Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to two self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most important job. Kendra believes chocolate is a basic human right, running a 10k is harder than it sounds, and that everyone should learn to drive a stick-shift. She loves monsters, vacations, baking and listening to bad electronica. More information about the Matt Archer universe, works in progress and the nature of the Higgs Boson* can be found at www.kendrachighley.com
As I said above, this review is just going to be for Matt Archer: Monster Hunter, but I will have my reviews for the other two books up as soon as I can.
Okay, here I go.
Probably my favorite part about this book was how believable all of the characters were. It's really hard to write teenagers, especially young ones, and make them sound their age without seeming ridiculous. Yeah, I guess you could say that some kids aren't exactly the brightest yet, but they're not all that way. I personally know of many underage individuals who are much more mature than their "adult" counterparts. Not that I think that Matt is like a 40-year-old man in a 14-year-old's body, but just because he's young, doesn't mean he's stupid.
He makes his mistakes just like everybody else does, but he's also very responsible. Very few people, his age or not, would be willing to set aside nearly everything they want in life in order to protect what others need. It's a very mature decision to make, and I think that Matt was very willing to make it without ever acting selfishly.
Still, he's a 14-year-old boy, not Mahatma Gandhi. Too often, I think that authors overstep this sort of "maturity line" in young characters because they're too afraid of making them seem weak. If you offer a teenage boy a ride in a Special Forces aircraft, he's not going to sit and contemplate the deeper meaning of it all, or do an extensive background check on the pilot to see how safe he is first. No, he's going to think it's freaking AWESOME, jump right in, and wait until he's able to tell all of his friends about how cool it was. And that's exactly what Matt did. You know, until he threw up. Minor detail.
Matt did end up growing up a lot throughout this first book, though. I didn't really notice it until he started reflecting on it himself after someone brought it up to him, and that really impressed me. I was shocked by how much he had changed and matured in such a short time, and I was even more surprised that I really hadn't noticed it that much. There was never a time when I stopped to think that something he did was way too out of character, yet that character kept changing all of the time. If anything at all, I have to give Kendra a whole lot of credit for that alone.
Luckily, it wasn't just that about this book that impressed me. I also really liked how descriptive yet fast-paced and dialogue-filled the novel was. I was always given enough information to envision what I needed, yet I never felt like a certain scene dragged on for way too long. The monsters were pretty great, too. I really liked that they adapted so quickly and were actually pretty smart. They came up with their own plans to win fights too, and they certainly mastered the area of smack-talk. No villains (or his/her minions) are complete without it.
Because this is technically supposed to be a tour for the third book in the series (even thought that's not what that review was just for), this excerpt is from Matt Archer: Legend.
Built like an Abrams tank, six-four and weighing two hundred-thirty pounds, you wouldn’t necessarily think my best friend was a wuss. Especially since he made his high-school football career out of slamming opposing quarterbacks to the turf.
He just hated needles.
“You’re awful big to be scared of a little tat,” the tattoo artist said. He shook his head in disgust. “I’ve inked little old ladies who complained a lot less than you.”
“Well, good for them,” Will said.
“Dude, chill,” I said, trying not to laugh.
He pulled at his hair with his free hand, his face scrunched up. “Chill? I’m getting stabbed with an ink-filled needle, you butthead! You were unconscious when you got yours done. You chill!”
Then I did laugh. I held out my right hand. Just below the wrist joint was a tiny, silver pentagram. It was the symbol for the military unit we served with…and much, much more in my case. Mine had been inked by a Peruvian medicine man and had mystical properties. Will’s was a more mundane copy.
“Seriously, mister, are you trying to engrave this thing onto my arm bone?” Will howled.
I grinned at the tattoo artist. “Sorry, Jimmy, Will’s a pansy.”
Jimmy grunted, his head bent over Will’s meaty forearm as he worked. “You don’t say.” A few buzzes later and the job was done. “Look here, big guy.”
He set down the needle and raised his t-shirt, revealing a scrawny chest covered in a collage of body art from his neckline to his belly button. Will recoiled and I started laughing again.
“See? You don’t gotta be big to be a man,” Jimmy said, a hint of a smile twitching at his mouth. “Now, do you need some ibuprofen for that little boo-boo on your wrist, or can your friend walk you out?”
“I’ll be fine,” Will said, sounding humiliated.
I whacked him on the back. “Sure you will. Thanks, Jimmy.”
“Don’t mention it. Let me know if you blokes come back to Ottawa. Maybe I can stencil a few more items for you, eh?” He turned to clean his equipment, missing Will’s blanched face.
I led Will outside and we headed across the long parking lot. We’d told the team we were going to dinner, but took the bus here after a Google search described Jimmy as one of the best tattoo artists in Ottawa. As soon as Captain Parker saw Will’s wrist, we’d be in for some trouble but I doubted he’d come down hard on us. All five blade-wielders had the special pentagram tattoo, and several of the guys on our team had gone to get one, too. Will wasn’t the only o
ne who wanted to fit in. The mid-October night was cold and the wind had a bite to it. Nothing a couple of Montana boys weren’t used to, but I turned up the collar of my jacket anyway, glad I’d worn my hiking boots.
“Some fall break. Not in Canada eight hours and I’ve got a tat,” Will said, air puffing in little white clouds from his mouth. “Millicent’s gonna be pissed. If it wasn’t football season, I’d be looking to run away from home before she finds out.”
“You know, it sucks that I have to go back to school at all,” I said. “Mom’s being way too stubborn about that. So what if there isn’t much activity right now? I could be at the Pentagon, helping Aunt Julie research or something. School’s a waste of time.”
He snorted. “Can you blame her? You lied to her for a year before she found out what we were up to. Keeping you in school when you’re between ops is her way of punishing us and the Army for keeping her in the dark.”
“Look who’s talking.” I stopped and crossed my arms. “You ever planning to tell your parents that we travel the world, hunting monsters on school breaks? Or do you think they’ll keep buying all that crap about the gifted and talented program?”
Will looked away, jaw clenched.
“Dude, sorry. I didn’t think—”
“It’s okay.” He wouldn’t look at me. “Millicent knows now, and that’s enough for me. She seems to get why we’re out here. My parents wouldn’t.”
“True story,” I said. “Doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.”
“I know, man. It’s just…I’m not a completely necessary part of the team; we both know that. If my parents found out, Colonel Black wouldn’t fight too hard to keep me around.”
I shook my head. “They would if I threatened to quit. You’re my wingman. I can’t do this without you and the Army better keep that in mind. Besides, I’m not willing to let all that training we did at your house the last few months go to waste. We have too many badass tricks to try out in the field next time.” I started walking again. “C’mon. I’m cold, and I’m sure there’s a pizza place still open somewhere in this town.”
“Good. I’m hungry enough to eat a brontosaurus.”
“Isn’t that what Fred Flintstone eats?” I asked.
“Yeah, but he only eats a steak. I’d eat the whole thing, except its tail.”
“You draw the line at eating a giant reptile’s tail? That’s your limit?”
Will shrugged. “I do have some standards, you know.”
“Now you tell me.” I wrapped my arms across my chest; the wind had suddenly gotten colder. Jimmy’s tattoo shop was in an industrial park, deserted this late at night, and a creepy place to be out walking after dark. Thin clouds, light gray in the moonlight, raced across the sky. I started walking faster, trying to cross between the amber circles of light from the streetlamps more quickly to stay out of the dark.
I could see the bus stop in the distance when a blue flash came from my backpack, catching my eye at the same time a voice crossed my mind.
“Here?” I asked the knife-spirit.
Look. She sounded agitated, which usually meant we were about to be in big trouble.
The hair on the back of my neck prickled and I glanced back at the walkway between the metal buildings. Fog oozed from all four directions, tinged a phosphorescent green and stinking of a sewer.
“We got incoming,” I whispered, not like it wasn’t obvious. Monsters were rarely subtle.
Will already had his phone out. “…Yeah, northeast corner of town…No, no idea how many….You picking us up on GPS?...No, we didn’t go to dinner….Look, can I explain that later?”
An other-worldly screech, like ten-thousand metal nails dragging across concrete, filled the air. Will whispered, “Gotta go, Parker. Hurry up, will ya?”
“How long?” I asked.
“Parker said ten minutes.” Will glanced at his watch. “No bus for the next fifteen. Looks like we’re stuck.”
We are not stuck. We fight. Prepare.
Why did I know the knife-spirit would say that?
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