Title: Thorn Ogres of Hagwood
Author: Robin Jarvis
Series: The Hagwood Trilogy #1
Gamaliel Tumpin is pudgy, clumsy, and terrified of taking the class that will teach him the secrets of his race. The werglings can change their form into birds and mammals, but Gamaliel is certain he won’t do well. But the forest where they live borders a much darker wood, and it won’t be long before the thorn ogres are unleashed on the land . . .
I liked this quite a bit, but I’m tempering my rating and enthusiasm based on the depressing fact that this is clearly setting up a sequel, which has had years to fail to materialize. So it’s hard to recommend something that only resolves a small part of the bigger issue and doesn’t work all that well as a standalone.
All of the characters are well-drawn, but I liked Finnen, an older student with precocious gifting, much better than any of the kids. In a way this book is really more Finnen’s story, as he sees in his mentorship a chance to give Gamaliel what he lacked as a student, and possibly turn Gamaliel down a different road than the one he chose. And when his choices are revealed, and he has to bear the consequences, he still chooses the hero’s path to combat the greater evil. Even if he has to do it all by himself. Where Gamaliel’s character arc is retreading a familiar path, Finnen’s isn’t as clear, so it was a lot easier for me to get involved with Finnen’s struggles.
Really, the lack of a sequel is the biggest downside. The world teases some interesting bits of magic and mystery, which would presumably reveal more later. Gamaliel and those who survived have drawn the ire of creatures much larger and more powerful—but like the thorn ogres, not without their weaknesses. And if the characters continued to mature and grow into their strengths, it could easily surpass this book. But again, this is just the beginning of a quest that never quite takes off. I rate this book Neutral.