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Book Two of The Tapestry

Written by Henry H. NeffAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Henry H. Neff
Illustrated by Henry H. NeffAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Henry H. Neff

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On Sale: September 23, 2008
Pages: 496 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89236-3
Published by : Random House Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

A fast-paced, genre-blending adventure—now in paperback!

The Tapestry series continues to weave threads of fantasy, mythology, science fiction, and mystery into a wholly original adventure that appeals to fans of everything from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings to The X-Men. Genre-blending and fully illustrated, The Tapestry novels have caught the attention of middle-grade and young adult readers alike—and the series is only getting bigger.

In this second book of the series, grave forces are converging to seize control of the Book of Thoth, a hidden artifact whose pages hold the key to creating—or unraveling—the very threads of existence. Max McDaniels and David Menlo embark on a quest to protect the book from the demon Astaroth, who would exploit its secrets with dire consequence. And with Astaroth free after centuries of imprisonment, the world outside Rowan’s gates has already become hostile.

Far from home, cut off behind enemy lines, Max and his allies must journey across Europe, descend into the fabled Frankfurt Workshop, brave the tangled corners of the Black Forest . . . and cross beyond the veils of our very world.

"After devouring this title, young fans will be clamoring for more."—Kirkus Reviews

Visit www.rowanacademy.com for original content, exclusive artwork, and more!

Excerpt

~ 1 ~

The Witch

Deep within a tangled corner of Rowan’s Sanctuary, Max McDaniels crouched beneath a canopy of sagging pines. It had been ten minutes since he had spied a dark shape slinking among the gray foothills far below, and Max knew his pursuer would now be close. He unsheathed his knife, using the blade’s coat of phosphoroil to study the crude map he’d scrawled before setting out. The target was still far away. At this rate, he would never make it—this opponent was much faster than the others.

Shaking off the unpleasant realities, Max concentrated instead on the illusion he had created. The phantasm was a perfect replica of Max, down to its wavy black hair and the sharp, dark features that peered cautiously from a high perch in a nearby tree. He had taken care to mark the surrounding terrain with subtle signs of passage, knowing that a trained eye would spot them.

The shrill cry of a bird shattered the pre-dawn stillness.

Something was coming.

Max’s pulse quickened. He scanned the switchback below for any sign of his pursuer, but there was only the smell of damp earth and the low sigh of the wind as it blew tatters of mist across the mountain.

While the sky brightened to a thin wash of blue, Max watched and waited, still as a stone among the roots and nettles. Just when he had decided to abandon his position, a flicker of motion caught his eye.

One of the trees was creeping up the mountainside.

At least he had thought the shape was a tree—one of several bent and broken saplings clinging precariously to the slope’s dry soil. Slowly, however, the silhouette straightened and began to thread its way up through the sparse wood. It crept toward Max’s double, as dark and shrouded as a specter. When the figure was some twenty feet away, Max realized why he had been unable to shake the pursuer.

It was Cooper.

The Agent’s scarred and ruined face looked like a fractured mask of weathered bone. His pale skin was camouflaged with dirt; his telltale shoots of blond hair were tucked beneath a black skullcap. Reaching the base of the tree on which Max’s double was perched, he drew a thin knife from a sheath on his forearm. Its blade gleamed with phosphoroil.

Cooper began climbing the tree with the fluid ease of a spider.

While the Agent climbed, Max’s pupils slowly dilated. Terrible energies filled his wiry form, making his fingers twitch and tremble.

Max sprang from his hiding place.

Cooper’s head cocked at the sound as Max hurtled toward him with his knife.

Max’s weapon struck home, but instead of meeting flesh and bone, it passed through the figure to thud against the tree in a spray of bark. Cooper’s conjured decoy dissolved in a billow of black smoke and Max realized he’d been duped.

Max whipped his head around and spied the real Cooper darting out from a nearby thicket. The Agent closed the distance in five long strides. Shifting his knife to his left hand, Max swung himself up into the tree as Cooper’s blade whistled past his ribs.

Cooper seized Max’s wrist in a grip of iron. “You’re caught,” he hissed.

With a terrible wrench, Max pulled himself free and sliced his own knife across Cooper’s shoulder, leaving a bright line of phosphoroil on the black fabric. Cooper gave a grunt of surprise. Slashing the Agent again, Max leapt clear of the tree.

In one fluid movement, Max landed and bolted up the path, veering right at the fork and dashing up the steep trail he had marked on the map. Cooper trotted after him, apparently unconcerned that Max was increasing his lead with a burst of Amplified speed. Ignoring Cooper for the moment, Max focused his attention on the coppery summit as he raced up the mountain, climbing steadily above the timberline.

It was ten minutes of hard running before Max spied a small white pennant fluttering from a distant peak of jagged rock. He fixed its position in his memory and grinned in spite of himself. Another ten minutes at this pace and he would be victorious.

As he ran on, however, his breathing was reduced to shallow gasps and then to agonizing, frantic swallows as the air became unbearably thin. A quick glance behind revealed that Cooper had closed to a hundred yards and was running as evenly as ever. Max spat on the path and increased his pace, coughing as he climbed.

The pennant was tantalizingly close, but the pain and dizziness became overwhelming. Tiny motes of light swam before Max’s eyes; his mouth felt as if it were full of hot sand. Stumbling over a rock, he spilled onto the ground, scraping his knee and dropping his knife. He scrambled to his feet just as a blurred shape came into view.

Cooper stood ten feet away, his sturdy black boot planted squarely on the hilt of Max’s knife.

The Agent’s eyes were locked on Max. His chest rose and fell in long, slow breaths as he flicked a cold glance at the red patch on Max’s uniform. The patch was a target, positioned directly over Max’s heart. A successful strike there signified a kill and would bring the exercise to an abrupt finish.

“Do you submit?” came Cooper’s clipped Cockney accent.

Max paused a moment, crouched in a defensive posture while he considered Cooper’s offer.

The very instant Max made his decision, the Agent reacted so swiftly, it was as though he had read Max’s mind. Before Max had even moved, Cooper flicked his wrist and sent the thin black knife darting toward the patch on Max’s chest.


From the Hardcover edition.
Henry H. Neff

About Henry H. Neff

Henry H. Neff - The Second Siege
It’s hard to write about one’s self without being too cute or clever by half. When in doubt, keep it simple: here are a few insights into who I am and how I work. Ultimately, it’s all about the words and pictures and how they come to be.

Today, I write books and teach in San Francisco, but I’m a Chicago boy at heart. In the late-1970s, at the age of four, I moved to the Chicago suburbs. My formative memories are generally pretty pleasant; a mishmash of baseball, bikes, and bad haircuts while I navigated the social labyrinth of public schools. As a history teacher, I now realize that my childhood was typical of an American kid growing up in the 1980s: middle child of divorced parents, microwaving fish sticks, and watching too much television.

Thankfully, it wasn’t all fish sticks and TV. There were always books and I was a big reader. My parents were art historians and there was a lot of strange stuff to spark and stoke an inquisitive mind–books on Bosch and Beowulf, surrealist paintings, visiting artists, and mounds of comic books. It was rich fodder for a young mind and while I didn’t always understand what I was looking at, I knew I liked it.

I was an artist before I was a writer. We had a big drawing board at the Neff house–a battered, scribbled-over panel of wood that I would lay out on the floor. With pencil, pen, crayon, or markers, I would create whole worlds–taped together panoramas of monsters and knights and smoldering ruins. I loved monsters–from Grendel lurking outside Hrothgar’s hall, to the Minotaur, to the motley host in Sendak’s, Where the Wild Things Are. If it had claws and teeth and malicious intent, I wanted to draw it. Still do.

My love of words came later. I don’t know exactly what triggered it, but I love the sounds, shapes, and mental snapshots that words can conjure. From the roar of creation myths to the quiet precision of a poem, there’s magic in words. The written word makes me feel a fierce connection to other people–I get to experience life through the soul and vitality of another human being. Even as you read these words, a connection is forming between us. We might be separated by great gulfs of distance or time, but still the connection exists. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

While I love words and art, I didn’t make a go of them right away. As a senior at Cornell University, I planned to attend law school when I was contacted by a consulting firm and encouraged to apply for an interview. Upon further inspection, McKinsey & Company sounded like heady stuff–a chance to work with smart people while tackling big problems. I decided law school could wait.

I spent five years in the business world and it was fine, but it just wasn’t me. Despite some brilliant colleagues and intriguing projects, I was plagued by the nagging suspicion that I was wasting my life. The real me wasn’t all that interested in a corner office–I wanted to be back at my drawing board, creating monsters and knights and ruins. Some might call such an impulse “geeky” or “childish,” but the older I get, the more I realize that we’re all strange little creatures and you have to build a life around whatever strange little things make you tick. It took nearly 30 years, but I finally concluded that I am a storyteller. I quit the corporate life cold turkey and took up teaching. During my first year teaching high school, I began to write The Tapestry.

The Tapestry is a story that I would have loved as a boy. I don’t know how to write for an audience other than myself and I think the story would ring false if I tried. A fair amount of personal history is interwoven into the tale and its characters. For example, vyes are the byproduct of bad dreams I had as a boy, involving tall, wolfish creatures with squinty eyes. The nightmares were recurring and I would run into my parents’ room, insisting that the “vyes” were after me. Naturally, when I needed a monster for The Tapestry, I put a call into the vyes. It was the least they could do after tormenting me so.

There are other bits and pieces of my life scattered throughout the books. An elderly married couple that I knew during college inspired the characters of Mum and Bob. A girlfriend’s father once asked me if I had read Dante in the original Italian (I had not). The presence of Old Tom at Rowan–its clock tower and its chimes–are a nod to Cornell’s Uris Library where I spent many an hour drowsing and watching snow settle onto the campus below. The list could go on. While personal anecdotes are nice, historic epics and mythology play a far greater role in shaping The Tapestry.

I must have been 10 or 11 when I first stumbled upon a book of Irish myths. Compared to the familiar fare of Greek and Norse mythology, the Irish tales seemed very exotic. Ireland’s stories and heroes possessed a beauty, savagery, and poetry that were magical, as were the names, which I still find a challenge. Central to Irish mythology is the hero, Cúchulain, and I could not ask for a more heroic or human persona on which to base Max McDaniels. In many ways, Cúchulain is the epitome of the tragic hero–he possesses both supernatural power and human foibles and thus makes for a fascinating character study. The myth of the Tain Bo Cualnge, or, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, likewise offered intriguing opportunities to explore heroism and hubris side by side.

The series also incorporates other genres–fantasy, science fiction, and real history–and the mix of these elements will shift from book to book. As a writer, I find the variety energizing as each new volume presents fundamentally new challenges and opportunities. To date, I’ve fleshed out detailed plans for over half a dozen books–some of which precede The Hound of Rowan by centuries–and I can safely say that no two are alike. I’d find each a joy to write because I’d find each a joy to read. This same mentality is applied to the illustrations.

When it comes to the drawings, I’m of the old school. Each of The Tapestry’s illustrations is a piece of original art. There is no PhotoShop–an application that has its uses, but is as pervasive these days as cosmetic surgery. I’d rather have a flawed drawing with a bit of sweat and fingerprints than a super-slick image that lives only on a server. The latter makes me sad. I have tremendous admiration for the work of some earlier illustrators–artists like Sydney Paget, Thomas Nast, and Arthur Rackham. I still pore over their drawings or political cartoons with love and awe and I’m firmly of the belief that the craft hit its zenith in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I try to emulate these old masters, employing the same tools–if not quite the same skills–in the illustration process. The drawings are created with an old-fashioned dip pen, paintbrushes, and washes of India ink applied to hot-pressed watercolor paper. Someday I’d like to work with color, but I don’t see that happening within this series.

There you have it–a little glimpse into my background, the stories I tell, and the pictures I make. I hope it’s just the beginning and that I will have the opportunity to spend the rest of my life writing books and teaching young people. I can’t imagine anything better.

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