Just Imagine

Storm Hound

Authored by Claire Fayers
Published by Macmillan Children's Books

This is a medium-length, entertaining story in which strong magic finds a way into the real world and threatens to separate a young girl from her endearing but very unusual puppy – the Storm Hound of the title.

Storm is one of the youngest members of the god Odin’s Wild Hunt, which every now and then sweeps across the skies in pursuit of thunder and lightning. But the little puppy can’t keep up the pace. He gets left behind and falls out of the sky, ultimately into the care of Jessie, who is missing her mum badly and is in need of a friend. A trio of inept ‘professors’ (in reality, ambitious magicians intent on killing Storm and taking over his magic power) pursue him throughout the story, and it builds up to an exciting climax at the end.

I’m sure that young readers will be captivated by Storm and amused at his attempts to understand the human world and his place in it. For instance, he resists the obedience class:

He was a stormhound. Humans should obey him, not the other way round.

And I especially enjoyed the banter with the next-door cat and how they both managed to reach an uneasy truce:

You don’t need to worry – you’re safe here.

Safe? Impertinent cat. Open the window so I may hunt with you.

I don’t hunt with anyone. I am the cat who walks alone.That comes from a book, you know.

Do I look like I care?

There are several interesting and rather quirky sidelines, like the boy who can shape-shift into a hare, and his motorbike-riding auntie, named after an enchantress and with a few magic powers of her own. And there is some considerable tension at the end, when Storm has to choose his destiny – domestic pet or wild hunter?

This is a fun read, with all the right ingredients of humour, excitement, an appealing animal character, bumbling villains, and a new-found friendship. Family problems are also largely resolved in the end, and there’s a message about what ‘home’ can mean. The magical element is sometimes used by the author to solve difficulties a little too conveniently, but I think children of 7 and 8 will be accepting of this in the context of the story’s movement towards a happy ending for all.