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Literature / The Tapestry

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...Rowan will have dire need of its Hound.

The hound reared up on its hind legs and placed paws the size of baseball mitts on Max's shoulders. It looked down at him, its breath a series of hot blasts. Growling, it pressed its forehead hard against his and spoke to him:

“What are you about? Answer quick, or I'll gobble you up!”

The Tapestry series is Henry H. Neff's first foray into the world of fiction, and follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a young Max McDaniels, who rather unexpectedly comes into his magical heritage and is brutally introduced to the magical world at large. Shortly afterward, he is invited to a school for similarly-gifted children—Rowan Academy, the last of its kind—and embarks upon a Coming of Age of mythic proportions.

Along the way he picks up new friends, including a steadfast (if inscrutable) young sorcerer, an ornery Familiar known as a charge, and a pair of reformed monsters/school chefs. The entrance ceremony, however, is clear: the students' talents don't come free. Anyone gifted with the spark is also likely to draw attention from the denizens of the magical world, most of whom aren't the friendliest customers. Their education is as much to keep them safe as to keep the magical traditions alive, and the threats only get bigger as the series progresses.


Neff weaves a world where All Myths Are True, the Wizarding School knows and acknowledges it's under seige from the get-go, and, surprisingly for Young Adult Literature of its type, the good guys actually take some rather serious losses. He pulls heavily from Celtic Mythology, which certainly help his works stand out from the more popular Classical Mythology at the time of their publishing, and adds a fair sprinkle of his own creatures, many of which spring from his imagination as a child.

The Tapesty series consists of:

  1. The Hound of Rowan (2007)
  2. The Second Siege (2008)
  3. The Fiend and the Forge (2010)
  4. The Maelstrom (2012)
  5. The Red Winter (2014)

Following the series conclusion, Neff began work on a followup series with three planned installments, The Impyrium, set approximately a millennium later in the same setting and following the children of one of its notable characters.


Needs Wiki Magic Love

This series provides examples of:

  • All Myths Are True: While the series has a strong focus on Celtic Mythology, you can find bits and pieces from almost every mythological tradition.
  • The Chessmaster: David Menlo has strategic tendencies that make Director Richter seem like she's playing checkers. Before his first class, he's planted a Chekhov's Gun.
    • Astaroth is Rowan's most dangerous enemy, responsible for the fall of the last great school of magic and most of the problems in the dark ages. Little catches him by surprise.
  • Chinese Mythology: Ya Ya, a qilin (spelled Ki-Rin in the books) is the matriarch of the Sanctuary and Elias Bram's charge. Despite the legends of qilin originating in China, Ya Ya is actually from Korea, and is quite different from the legends.
  • Eldritch Abomination: When demons begin to arrive, many are grotesque amalgamations of unusual body parts, and anything stronger than an imp is likely the magical match of any gifted human (short of an agent).
    • Lugh Lámhfhada probably counts. He's a distant and mysterious king who, to most, is surrounded by a light so bright it hurts to be around him.
    • Prusias spends most of his time as a barrel-chested man with a thick, black beard, rich vestments, and a merry, booming voice. When he gets serious, he reveals himself to be a great red dragon, towering stories high with a crown on each of his seven heads.
    • The grylmhoch is a horrfiying creature that moves like a snail, has tentacles and flippers which do not seem suited for moving on the ground. It screams sounds it has heard in the past, with mouths erupting on its body for each new noise. Its size is fluid, and teeth emerge from its body where there were none before. It isn't hurt by normal weapons, and it is only defeated by having the seal anchoring it to reality being destroyed.
    • Yuga takes the form of an all-consuming storm that devours souls and is feared even by other great demons.
    • Astaroth is pure uncanny valley most of the time; a pale, androgynous, inhumanly beautiful man with a gentle demeanor and a crescent-eyed smile fixed on his face. Other demons are terrified of him. While he may not be quite alien enough to be called an eldritch abomination, his masters certainly are. He's not a real demon, in fact, but a sort of spore cast out by starving, reality-eating beings from a dying universe who sent him to open the way for them.
  • Familiar: Rowan's charges. All first year students make a trip to the Sanctuary, where they're lined up for all manner of supernatural critters to examine. Once one chooses them, they're responsible for its care until they graduate.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Astaroth is always polite and calm, masking the power-hungry monster within.
  • Geas: An important part of the plot on several occasions. Most significant early on is Astaroth's geis: he can never tell a lie.
    • Everyone with Old Magic in their blood has a geis, or, plural, geasa. Max ultimately meets his end when he breaks one of his geasa—shortly after learning it.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Astaroth is the Demon, a hugely powerful being thousands of years old, and appears as an abnormally tall, pale, and beautiful man with solid black eyes. His true form is not this, and is instead a black starfish-looking creature about the same size as his assumed form.
  • Magical Enhancement: Called 'amplifying' by Rowan's people. Pumping yourself up with magic can empower you to outrun a horse, crack concrete with a bare fist, leap across gorges, etc. All students are taught, but many don't have the magical batteries or the talent to ever excel.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Without Max and David's efforts in the second book, Astaroth could never have retrieved the Book of Thoth.
    • A deal Elias Bram made for some information centuries ago comes back to bite Rowan when witches lay claim to Rowan's children of the Old Magic, Max and David. By reneging on the deal, they open themselves to a curse that saps Max's strength when Rowan needs him most.
      • Bram is also responsible for fostering a lot of the enmity that made Marley Augur Come Back Wrong, inadvertently opening a door for Astaroth's return.
      • ...And reigniting open hostilities with the demons by destroying Gravenmuir.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: It could be argued that Astaroth's first acts with the Book of Thoth actually benefit humanity more than harm it, depending on if you believe we can fix everything we've broken before it's completely out of our hands.
    • Astaroth is so confident in his own power that he drinks David's poison and falls ill, regurgitating Elias Bram, losing a large portion of his power, and accidentally starting a demonic riot as they all attempt to seize power from their weakened leader.
  • One-Winged Angel: Prusias normally takes humanoid form, but when pressed he takes his real form, that of the Great Red Dragon. In this form, he is a titanic serpentine creature, as much as two thousand feet long, with seven crowned heads.
  • Our Demons Are Different: They are apparently corrupted nature spirits rather than being from another world. They come in a wide variety of forms and advance in power by consuming human souls, changing form as they do so. While never said outright, it seems that power correlates with size; Prusias (and probably other demons of his caliber as well) is a Kaiju who uses a humanoid form for convenience, and Yuga is an Eldritch Abomination the size of a small country.
  • Recurring Dreams: In the page quote. Max has a recurring dream of an enormous wolfhound that demands to know what he stands for. The dream ends when Max can't answer, and the hound eats him.
  • Reformed Monster: Bob and Mum are a reformed Russian ogre and a reformed hag, respectively. Together, they run the school kitchen exceptionally well. It's a little bit lost on Bob, who loves cooking for students, but only eats grilled cheese and tomato soup since he pulled out his teeth in atonement for people eaten. Mum has self-control issues, and must ceremonially sniff new students so she'll never mistake them for food.
  • Wizarding School: Rowan Academy


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