Simon Thorn recently discovered that he is an Animalgam, a secret race of people who can change into animals. Now Simon is going to school at a secret Animalgam academy, which is hidden under the Central Park Zoo. Even though Simon does not get along with his newly discovered Animalgam brother, he makes some true friends as he learns about his new power and learns how to fight.
But life still has challenges. Simon’s evil grandfather, Orion, killed Simon’s uncle and took his mother captive. Orion wants to rule over all Animalgams, but to do so, he needs to find all of the pieces of the predator—a terrible weapon that will change the Animalgam world forever. In order to stop this, Simon is determined to find his mother and the pieces of the predator. Simon and his friends head across the country, battling not only the bird kingdom but rogue Animalgams as well. Can Simon and his friends work together to overcome dangerous enemies, torn loyalties, and unexpected setbacks?
Simon Thorn and the Viper’s Pit has the same cast of characters as the first book in the series and adds a few interesting new characters. Each character has their own unique ability, which allows them to work as a team to get out of dangerous situations. As the kids race across the country, they must avoid the bird kingdom as well as other mammals. This conflict adds non-stop action that involves more running away than actual fighting. At one point along the way, Simon is told, “Life is hard, and it changes in ways we don’t want or expect. Running away isn’t the answer. We have to find the good in what we have, and we have to appreciate it. Otherwise you’re never going to be happy no matter where you are.”
Simon and Winter, who are the most developed characters, add an interesting contrast. Simon is an extremely likable character, who has compassion for others and wants to do what is right. On the other hand, Winter’s prickly personality and insecurities are more consistent with a rebellious teenager. Simon and the others stick by Winter’s side even though she is at times difficult to deal with. The friends’ interactions highlight the importance of individuality and accepting yourself. After all, “When it comes to you, the only opinion that matters is your own.”
Aimee Carter brings the complex Animalgam’s world into sharp focus as she creates well-developed characters that are unique. The action-packed sequel to Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den is just as amazing as the first book. Readers will enjoy the non-stop action and will root for Simon and his friends as they try to defeat an evil villain. Simon Thorn and the Viper’s Pit takes the reader on an exciting adventure that focuses on friendship, loyalty, and family. Readers will not be able to stop turning the pages of the Simon Thorn series, so make sure you have the next book in the series, Simon Thorn and the Shark’s Cave.
- After a boy makes mean remarks, Simon “launched himself at the bigger boy with a feral cry. Garrett fell, his elbows knocking against the wooden floor with a hard crack. Simone scrambled over him trying to pin his legs and arms, but before he could get any kid of grip, Garrett began to shift.” Garrett turns into a mountain lion, shoves Simon, and taunts him. “Simon wheezed, struggling to breathe as his vision went red.” Simon’s uncle, in wolf form, appears and, “tackled the mountain lion, sending Garrett flying.” The fight then ends. The fight scene takes place over three pages.
- During a school match, Nolan changes into a wolf, and “in a flurry of fur and teeth, Nolan snarled and jumped, his paws landing against Jam’s chest as they fell to the ground. Jam’s glasses flew off into the sand, and Nolan bared his teeth an inch from Jam’s throat. While he didn’t bite him, Jam winced with pain, and Simon noticed the wolf’s claws digging deep into Jam’s black uniform.” Jam’s shirt is ripped, but he is not injured. Simon jumps in and stops the fight.
- When a man tries to capture Simon, he aimed “a swift kick at Perrin’s knee before taking a sharp turn into the park. Perrin howled with pain.” Simon is able to run away.
- When Perrin grabs Simon, Simon’s mouse, Felix, helps him. “Simon turned his head just in time to see Felix sink his teeth into the soft space between Perrin’s thumb and finger. With a cry, Perrin released his grip, snatching his hand away.” One of Simon’s friends turns into a snake, and Perrin “snatched the snake out of the air and hurled her against the wall. She hit the brick with a sick crack, and there was a loud ringing in Simon’s ears as panic overtook him.” Simon is able to escape, and he takes the unconscious snake with him.
- Simon is on a train that makes a stop. While Simon is walking, “he was pulled through the door and off the train, spilling out onto the cold, dark platform. Simon fought his abductor with all his might, kicking and yelling into the warm palm stifling his cries for help. He struggled against the unyielding grip that held him in place on the platform, but it was no use.”
- When Perrin again tries to capture Simon, “the humans formed a ring around Simon and his friends, and the adults began to shift. . . Talons clawed at fur, teeth ripped out feathers, and in the midst of it all, Simon saw the woman leap from the dusty street toward Perrin, shifting into a red fox in midair.” Perrin is able to escape uninjured, but when he comes back, Simon turns into an eagle and attacks. Simon “caught Perrin’s wing and dragged him back toward the brawl in town. . . he flung Perrin’s delicate bird body toward a waiting coyote. . . But at last Perrin spread his wings, catching a current before the coyote could take a bite out of him.” Perrin flees and Simon is safe.
- When Malcom goes to get Simon and his friends, some of the mammals try to stop them. Malcom shifts into a wolf, and a man pulls a gun. “But before his fingers could curl into claws, Jam appeared behind Keval and kicked him between the legs. Hard. Keval cried out and dropped the gun. . .a cottonmouth snake struck Keval’s exposed ankle with a hiss, and a shiny black spider appeared on his collar and sank her fangs into his neck.” Keval collapses, and the kids are able to escape.
- When a man catches Simon, he “pulled a long knife with a jagged edge and rested it against Simon’s throat. . . He could feel the sharp edge of the blade pressing against his skin, only a slip away from opening an artery, and the fiery knot in his chest constricted.”
- Simon’s mother tries to keep Orion from hurting Simon. “His mother slammed into Orion, and together they tangled as they half flew, half fell. . . Simone spotted a figure he thought might be a golden eagle crumpled on the ground.”
- Malcom finds the reptiles that are holding Simon and his friends captive. The reptiles hand the kids over to Celeste, and “In a flurry of howls and growls, the mammals shifted and launched themselves at the reptiles. . . Celeste yanked Simon backward toward the elevators. He stumbled and tried to grab hold of a nearby couch to resist, but Celeste dragged him to the doors and jabbed the button. . . an armadillo and a badger raced towards them, and they too jumped onto the wolf’s back. Celest screamed, and Simon darted past her and down the corridor.”
- A man turns into a poisonous snake and bites Simon’s friends. When he corners Simon, someone hits the man, whose “expression went blank, and seemingly in slow motion, crumpled to the floor.” Simon’s friends are given the antidote.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Another student calls Simon a “birdbrain.”
- Twice someone is called a “jerk.”
- The story revolves around Animalgams, “a human who could not only talk to animals, but developed the ability to turn into one, too.” This ability is passed down by family. “Nearly all Animalgams could only shift into a single animal, and they belonged to one of the five Animalgam kingdoms: mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, or underwater creatures.” Nolan and Simon are special, they can shift into any animal.