Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
Well, how about that! Simon Hunter is a surprisingly fun, fanciful fantasy novel about a shape-shifting dog-boy and his magical fairy friends!
The thing about this book is that it ultimately picked up but started a bit flat. Who are we kidding? This book disarmed us with its opening. You're first introduced to the two main protagonists, Betsy and Eric, a married couple who are living a pretty bland life in a pretty bland home until the inciting incident. To be perfectly honest, though Betsy's perspective dominates this story, we often forgot who she was outside of being Eric's wife or even what her name was. It's a strange feeling as a reader when you find yourself in the shoes of someone who just feels generic and empty, but that might be the point.
She was a bit of a blank slate in other words. You're meant to put yourself in her shoes as you discover these strange new things. And, boy, does it get wild!
Betsy and the opening were really the only weaknesses of this book because otherwise it's rather superb. Simon is such a cute, charismatic, and compelling character—a magical boy who can transform into a dog (border-collie) and later even a cougar. Some of his greatest moments are him being naive about humanity and their ways, cryptically referencing the ways of the fairies, and just plain acting like a dog. Simon Hunter gives this book its name for a reason, he is really central to it. He's the glue that holds everything together and one of the plot's main driving forces.
Another thing that is a huge plus in this book's favor is the mystery surrounding the creation and disappearance of the magical creatures. Not to spoil too much, but this book builds the suspense and mystery steadily, adding tension to the escalating situation. There are times the characters don't trust each other and question each other's motives. Some might have ulterior motives and their own agendas. There are times when information is uncovered that's truly shocking and surprising. You want that in a book like this.
And we can't ignore the fact that this book is just lighthearted magical fun! You get loads of magical creatures from fairies (“faeries”), pixies, elves, and trolls. Each is so unique and interesting in their own way. Perhaps our favorites were the mischievous and somewhat ominous pixies, basically fairies with fouler attitudes and sharp teeth.
Among the most interesting of the magical creatures is Sally. Ironically, we'd just read a book called Everything is Everything in which a character named Sally befriends a fairy.
Sally, similar to Simon, is an eye-catching, cute, charismatic, and compelling character. She may be a nominee for “Hottest Character.” She gets herself involved in a few awkward situations as she becomes accustomed to living among humans. Not only does she glow physically, but her personality is also glowing. You can practically feel the glitter and sparkles coming from every page she's on!
Speaking of unique creatures, the trolls are another such example. One of the most charming troll moments is when Theira, a troll who acts rather feminine, cries and her tears drip “down her mustache and onto her bearded face.” Like, we feel bad for Theira, but how can you not love that sentence? It just shows you how different these characters and their world are.
Another thing that we can't ignore, although we did talk a bit down about the main couple, is that Betsy and Eric do have a rather impressive and incredible arc. They change and learn something from these experiences, particularly in raising and protecting Simon. It makes them aspire to be parents for the first time, and that's quite special.
Check this out on Amazon if you're on board for a magical adventure!