Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising by Jason Henderson

My reading in the young adult genre or age group has mostly been focused on fantasy with a mythological and/or fairy tale perspective. Jason Henderson‘s Alex Van Helsing series fits into that, kinda. After all it uses the Van Helsing legend as a touchstone and vampires are part of mythology.  And yet it has a much more contemporary feel to it than most books I read. The literary and mythological background is there but the focus is much more on action and adventure than myths and legends.

But with the second book in the series coming out at the end of the month I decided to start with the first book: Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising. It turned out to be a rather uneven start. Some promise with the style and characters but a plot that moves in fits and starts.

Here is the publishers blurb:

The Van Helsing name reborn

Fourteen-year-old Alex has no idea that he’s descended from the world’s most famous vampire hunter, but that changes fast when he arrives at Glenarvon Academy and confronts two vampires in his first three days. Turns out Glenarvon isn’t the only school near Lake Geneva. Hidden deep underground lies an ancient university for vampires called the Scholomance. And the deadly vampire clan lord known as Icemaker? You might say he’s a visiting professor.

When two of Alex’s friends are kidnapped by Icemaker, it’s up to Alex to infiltrate the Scholomance and get them back—alive. Assisted by the Polidorium, a top-secret vampire-hunting organization with buried ties to the Van Helsings, Alex dodges zombies, bullets, and lots—and lots—of fangs on his way to thwarting Icemaker’s plans and fulfilling his family destiny.

More thoughts below.

This was another hard to rate YA fantasy adventure novel. It has a nice hook (a Van Helsing is sent to a Geneva boarding school after getting in to trouble at his previous school and finds out his famous last name more appropriate than he ever thought) and some good action but it just feels little thin somehow. The set up is good but it just never really grabbed my attention.

It could be that the author was trying to keep it light and simple or it could be that the characters lack depth and the author tried a bit to hard to be snarky/funny with the dialogue.

A little bit of both I would guess. Still, I think young boys would enjoy this action adventure. No real romance to speak of (which the young boys will like I assume) and the violence is not real intense (parents might like that aspect, I don’t know).

All in all, an clever and action orientated story but not enough depth for my taste.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).


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