After his adventures at the Monster Hunter Academy (which included fighting a goblin army, befriending an ancient werewolf, and battling two fire breathing dragons), Jack Templar was hoping for a rest. No such luck. In Book #3 of the Jack Templar Monster Hunter series, Jack embarks on a quest to track down and acquire the first of the five mythical Jerusalem Stones, an ancient power found by his ancestors the Templar Knights. Only the reunited Stones can stop Ren Lucre, the Dark Lord who holds Jack’s father hostage and prepares for an all-out war against an unsuspecting human world. But each Stone is held by a different Creach Lord and recovering them will not be easy. Jack and his friends begin their quest by seeking out one of the most powerful and dangerous keepers of the Stones, the Lord of the Vampires. The fate of the world rests on Jack’s shoulders and he will be tested like never before. But true monster hunters always do their duty…come what may.
Jack Templar and the Lord of the Vampires.
But even though they can be anywhere, the ancient places of the world are crawling with them. I’m not sure why. Maybe monsters feel more comfortable surrounded by old stone buildings and cobbled streets as a reminder of a simpler time, back when superstition kept them safe and hunting was easier to do unnoticed. There are too many cameras in the modern world for an army of monsters to hunt and feed without making a mark. And that’s the last thing they want.
Not yet, anyway.
So, the challenge for any monster hunter is to balance the desire to seek out the Creach to battle them with the understanding that it’s possible to overstep, be too aggressive and find yourself in over your head. One or two monsters, depending on the type, are something most first-degree hunters can handle. But multiply that a few times over and you’ve got a real fight on your hands. In some of the older cities of the world, that number can swell to the hundreds before you can say, “Your mother was a mug-wump.” And then you have huge problems.
These were my thoughts as I watched the sun rise over the ancient Moroccan city of Marrakech. Low, square buildings stretched out in a ramshackle maze punctuated by the spires of dozens of mosques. In the early morning light, the red sandstone of the old city walls glowed a deep ruddy color showing why Marrakech had long ago earned the nickname the red city.
I imagined I could have stood on this spot a thousand years earlier and seen pretty much the same sight before me. Well, almost. Satellite dishes sprouted from most roofs like mushrooms in a field, and the tangle of power lines that crisscrossed the buildings looked as if a manic army of spiders had spent the night spinning metal webs. Still, even with those obvious signs of the modern world, the weight of history hung in the air.
Miles to the north, there were parts of Marrakech with modern skyscrapers, nightclubs and Internet cafes. But we were in the Medina, the ancient center of the city, filled with souks with their haggling merchants, taverns with rough, dangerous characters, open squares packed with performers, merchants, beggars and thieves. And, most important to our mission, thousands of hiding places existed for all kinds of men and monsters that wanted to be forgotten by the rest of the world.
I couldn’t help but feel the pull of the city. The idea of disappearing into its deep underbelly and losing myself in its honeycombed streets seemed for a second like the only reasonable thing to do. Gone would be the weight of the quest to find the Jerusalem Stones and save my father. Gone would be the fear that at any minute my friends would be killed because of the danger I’d put them in. Gone would be the impossible responsibility to stop Ren Lucre and the coming Creach war. I could leave all that behind and be a normal fourteen-year-old kid simply by going for a long walk and never looking back.
I let out a deep breath and let this fantasy go with it on the morning air. Behind me I heard the others stirring in our single, cheap hotel room we’d straggled into late the night before. After two long weeks on the road where we’d kept away from civilization as best we could, we were due for at least one good night’s sleep. Compared to camping out in abandoned houses and in fields throughout the south of France and into Spain, the threadbare beds seemed like the height of luxury.
The road from the Monster Hunter Academy had been uneventful compared to events before we left. Standing on the balcony, I thought back to the awful day when the Creach attacked. After the Cave of Trials, battling dragons, fighting off the goblin hoard, and watching the black wolf Tiberon transform back into human form and disappear into thin air, I hoped we would have at least a little time to recover before it was time to leave. But it didn’t happen.
The morning after the goblin battle, Aquinas summoned me to her tent. I made my way through a small tent city that had sprung up near the gates to the Citadel to temporarily house the students. The dorms had burned to the ground. Outside the Academy walls, a student work party shoveled dirt over the bodies of the two dragons I’d killed. Aquinas wanted a deep burial where no Regs (non-hunter humans) would find them. Her tent was easy to spot. It was large and round with a pointed center, like a miniature version of a circus tent. The leather flap covering the entrance was open, so I crouched down and stepped inside.
After barely surviving the onslaught of monsters that tried to kill him the day before his fourteenth birthday, Jack Templar leaves his hometown on a quest to rescue his father and discover the truth about his past. Joined by his friends Will and T-Rex, and led by Eva, the mysterious one-handed monster hunter, Jack sets out for the Monster Hunter Academy where he hopes to find answers to his questions. Little does he suspect that the Academy is filled with dangers of its own, many of them more terrifying than anything he’s faced so far.
Orphan Jack Templar has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. The day before Jack's fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him. At first it's great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend "T-Rex" from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he's the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he's destined to be in the family business. Second, that there's a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits...until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him.
As if that weren't enough, things get even more complicated when Jack discovers that the Lord of the Creach (as the monsters are collectively known) holds a personal grudge against him and will do anything to see that Jack has a slow and painful death. To stay alive and save his friends, Jack will have to battle werewolves, vampires, harpies, trolls, zombies and more. But perhaps the most dangerous thing he must face is the truth about his past. Why do the other hunters call him the last Templar? Why do they whisper that he may be the "One?" Why do the monsters want him dead so badly? Even as these questions plague him, he quickly discovers survival is his new full-time job and that in the world of monster hunters, nothing is really what it seems.
Book of the Year Finalist by Foreword Reviews.
Author Jeff Gunhus