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Monster Hunters: Nightmare Academy #1    by Dean Lorey & Brandon Dorman order for
Monster Hunters
by Dean Lorey
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Dean Lorey's Nightmare Academy is set in a portentous world where the gifted - children who possess special abilities to battle nightmare creatures - are trained. The creatures are 'creepy and they're spooky, altogether kooky', frightful, vindictive and untrustworthy - and they feed on children's nightmares. For thirteen-year old Charlie Benjamin, sleep has always been a disaster.He was kicked out of kindergarten, diagnosed as 'Obsessive-Compulsive Attention Deficit Mental Meltdown Disorder'. His parents' response? 'That's an awful lot of letters for such a little boy.' Charlie was homeschooled for the next seven years until ...

Charlie receives an invite to a neighborhood sleepover. The next morning he awakens to see the other children hanging from the ceiling in cocoons, and a giant spider! Soon Nightmare Academy staff enter through a portal and Charlie is enlisted along with other children born with the Gift. The Academy is built in and around a gigantic banyan tree, with ramps, catwalks, and huge sailing ships on the branches, connected together with 'woven nets and bridges'. Charlie is immediately befriended by Theodore Dagget and Violet Sweet. Theodore says, 'I'll do my best ... But sometimes my fists start talking before my feet start walking - that's just the way I roll.' (I love his character!) Classmates are taken into the Netherworld, where assorted creatures are governed by the powerful Five Lords of the Nether. The Lords attempt to enter portals to Earth, and Lord Verminion did so eons ago. He has been hiding in his lair for twenty-odd years, building an army against humankind.

Academy students are expected to pass an entrance exam by declaring themselves Banisher, Nethermancer, or Facilitator. Violet is a Banisher. Theodore is unhappy with his declaration as a Nethermancer, insisting he's a Banisher like his father. Charlie is considered extra-special as both Banisher and Nethermancer (a Double Threat like him is born every twenty to thirty years). Staff members include Professor Xixclix, the Academy's beastmaster, who originated from the Nether and switched sides; hardy yet loving Housemother Mama Rose; and stern Director Reginald Drake. Monsters include the memory stealing 'Hags of the Void'; Gremlins who run amok when they chew electrical wires; Snarks; and Silvertongues. Artifacts of the Nether play a key role in the Lords' dominance. So, when the artifact bracer is taken during battle, Charlie's parents are captured by Lords Verminion and Barakkas, and held for ransom.

Dean Lorey is a video game enthusiast, and collector of fantasy art. Of this, his first book for children, he expresses the hope that ' it will keep you up all night.' Brandon Dorman's illustrations are nothing short of spectacular, whether he draws Academy students and staff, or creatures of the Nether. Altogether, Monster Hunters is a very digestible read that keeps you chewing through page after page. Lorey's creation is impossible to put down, and never boring!

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