Teen hunts vampires in ‘Voice of the Undead’
“Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead” (HarperTeen), by Jason Henderson
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Alex Van Helsing finally belongs somewhere. It just happens to be an underground organization that secretly hunts and kills vampires.
“Voice of the Undead” is Jason Henderson’s second novel in the Alex Van Helsing series. The first, “Vampire Rising,” published last year, was an interesting twist on an old tale, but a slow read. “Voice of the Undead” is a more action-packed story, and the characters are more fully developed.
In the first book, Alex enrolled at the prestigious all-boys Glenarvon Academy near Lake Geneva, where he was quickly attacked by a fanged woman. He also noticed that he gets a strange static in his head that warns him when vampires are near. Because of this ability, the 14-year-old was recruited by the Polidorium organization, where his English teacher is a high-ranking officer, to become a vampire hunter.
In “Voice of the Undead,” Alex attends school during the day and spends his nights searching Lake Geneva for the magic-protected Scholomance, an ancient vampire school. During one of these missions, he burns down Glenarvon Academy, which is forced to relocate to an all-girls academy down the road.
Meanwhile, the Polidorium want Alex to track down a vampire named Ultravox.
The Alex Van Helsing series is tapping into the market of books for young adult boys, and does so successfully. The novels are engaging and suspenseful, without relying on a central love story.
Henderson also cleverly alludes to many old horror stories, from Frankenstein to the tale of the girl with the green ribbon around her neck. He slowly creates new paranormal characters, and he does so smoothly.
Alex’s close friends, who aren’t especially gifted, keep the story accessible to all readers. Just as Harry Potter needs Hermione and Ron, Alex needs his friends Minhi, Paul and Sid.
But where is Lord Voldemort? One could argue that it’s the vampire Elle, who seems to constantly taunt Alex, but readers know almost nothing about her.