Praise for Jack Templar Monster Hunter
The Templar Chronicles Book 1
Selected as a 2012 Finalist for the Book of the Year Award. – Foreword
"Gunhus brings young readers a monster-filled romp to read at their own
risk. The tone is set--sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek and likable; rooting
for Jack is easy...Gunhus masterfully introduces fully realized
characters with whom readers can connect almost instantly. The pacing is
quick but not rushed, and events seamlessly progress, complete with
action, cliffhangers and surprise reveals. " - Kirkus Reviews
Here there be monsters!
Label found on ancient maps
describing the lands beyond the known world.
I leaned up against the ship’s rusty metal railing, barely able to
catch my breath. I took a pull from a water bottle as I looked out at
the hundreds of miles of black ocean that stretched out in every
direction, the full moon painting broad, glowing strokes across the
surface that seemed to point right at me.
I always imagined that the middle of the Atlantic Ocean would be a
violent place, filled with giant, rolling waves and massive storms, but
the water that night was as calm as if we were on a lake. Good thing
too, since the trawler we had been on for the last week was a creaky old
lug of a ship whose best days were far, far behind it.
“Come on,” said a girl behind me with a distinct English accent.
I was about to complain when I instinctively felt the attack coming. I
rolled to my right and a sword sparked against the metal where I had
just been resting. I held up my own sword in front of me and crouched
“Eva, we’ve been going for hours,” I said. “Can’t we relax
just for once?”
Eva paced in front of me in the shadows of the main deck of the trawler.
Her brown hair was tied back in a ponytail like every time we sparred.
She held a sword in her right hand and had a nasty barbed hook screwed
into the socket on her left wrist.
Even though it would seem that a lethal iron hook would attract my
attention first, it was Eva’s face that always distracted me when we
fought. Even in the dim light, even though she was trying to run me
through with her sword, she was just about the most attractive girl
I’d ever seen. Every time I looked too closely at her face, I thought
of the kiss she gave me right before my fight with Ren Lucre. As I
pictured it in my mind again, Eva smiled, her teeth nearly glowing in
the dim light. That smile wasn’t good news.
She lunged at me, using a twisting combination to my weak side that I
had to jump backward to avoid. I blocked a low blow from her hook, but
felt a breeze as her sword swept sharply within an inch of my right ear.
I reached up and felt a small patch of missing hair. I guess it was
closer than an inch.
“You’ll get more than a haircut unless you practice harder,” she
I gripped my sword tightly and the two of us circled one another on the
deck. Eva had been the first person to tell me that I was a monster
hunter. She had been with me through that terrible first night, when the
Creach horde had come to kill me. I had lost my Aunt Sophie that night,
but I had also discovered that my father was still alive and held
captive by the Dark Lord of the Creach—Ren Lucre.
Eva had been all business since we left Sunnyvale for the Monster Hunter
Academy. Nothing but hour after hour of fighting practice. I didn’t
mind too much because she was an amazing fighter—much better than I
was—and after coming face-to-face with the enemy I was eager to learn
new ways to protect myself.
Not only was she a great fighter, but she seemed to understand how I had
changed. She could sense the heightened strength and speed that had
surged through me right before my fourteenth birthday. The change seemed
to have either slowed or stopped, which bummed me out because I was
hoping for full-on superhero powers. Or at least a body-builder
physique. To look at me, you’d never imagine the strength I possessed.
When I caught a glance of myself in the mirror, a skinny middle school
kid looked back at me. Not only that, but I still thought of myself as
Jack Smith, the name I’d been raised with my entire life. Jack Templar
felt like a stranger’s name to me and I wondered if it would ever feel
like my own.
Still, my body was stronger, faster and more agile than I could have
ever hoped for. Unfortunately, this didn’t always help me when I faced
Eva’s superior skills.
“Brace yourself,” she said. “This might hurt a little.”
Before I could react, Eva was inside my defenses. I bashed into her
using the hilt of my sword and I felt her fall back. I stepped up to
take advantage of her misstep…only to find that it was a trap. The
second I was off balance, she swept my leg and I hit the deck hard, my
sword skittering across the ground.
She was right. It did hurt. Only I wasn’t sure what hurt worse—my
banged up knee, or my ego from losing to her for the hundredth time?
She lowered her sword, her green eyes showing her disappointment.
“See? You’re on your heels again,” she said. “That’s why we
can’t stop practicing.”
“I wasn’t on my heels,” I complained.
“She’s right, Jack,” said a voice, a bit garbled from a mouthful
of food. “You were on your heels.”
I looked over at T-Rex, one of my buddies who had come along with me on
my adventure. He was in his usual deck chair watching the workout, a
thick sandwich in his hand and a soda balanced on one of the armrests.
After a rough few days of seasickness, he had since gotten his sea legs,
found the ship’s kitchen and was in the process of eating his way
through everything the cook could throw at him. T-Rex had been round and
heavy when we left Sunnyvale, and he was only getting rounder and
heavier as the journey went on.
T-Rex was back to being his usual cheery self, but I knew leaving had
been hard on him. Mostly because he missed his grandma.
She had raised him most of his life, but in the last year she had
started acting strangely. The doctors said she had Alzheimer’s, which
meant that her brain would slowly stop functioning and she wouldn’t be
able to take care of herself, let alone take care of T-Rex. Just as I
was going to leave town, Child Protective Services had taken his grandma
away to a nursing home and was looking for him to put him into a foster
home. So, with no other family, T-Rex had decided to come with me. And
I was happy that he had.
“Why don’t you come out here and try?” I asked, glaring at T-Rex.
“Who? Me?” T-Rex asked.
He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his hand creeping up from his
lap. He then planted a finger firmly in his nose. Did I forget to
mention that T-Rex was a world-class nose-picker? Every time he got
nervous, he started digging for gold. That’s how he had gotten his
nickname, T-Rex, because we all wished he had itty-bitty T-Rex arms, so
he wouldn’t be able to reach his nose. The good news was that since
our night battling monsters, his nose-picking had slowed considerably.
“Yeah, you,” I said sternly. “You need to practice too. This
isn’t a vacation, you know.”
T-Rex stuffed his face with another bite of a sandwich and said, “No,
I’m fine right here, thank you.”
“I’ll do it.” A shadow jumped down from a perch on the control
tower in the center of the trawler. It was Will, my other friend from
home. Both he and T-Rex had been drawn into my little monster problem on
that terrible night. In fact, I owed them both my life. But that was
where their similarities ended. T-Rex wasn’t the adventurous type. He
would have been perfectly happy staying at home if his grandma hadn’t
been taken away. As for Will… he was another story completely.
While I had been raised an orphan by my Aunt Sophie, Will had been
raised by parents who were worse than the monsters we now fought. When
my Aunt Sophie—who turned out to be a devil-wolf—was killed by Ren
Lucre, Will felt the loss as much as I did. After that, there was
nothing left for either of us in Sunnyvale, so it was a no-brainer that
we left town with Eva, ready for anything this new world would throw at
us. Three days later we were on a ship leaving New York harbor on the
way to Europe. Destination: the Monster Hunter Academy.
Will strutted out on the practice area. He was short, but carried
himself with a curled up tension that reminded me of a pit bull. Will
loved it when people underestimated him because of his size. It made
winning a lot more fun.
T-Rex cupped his mouth with his hands and made a sound like a stadium
cheering a gladiator. I stepped back and let him into the training
Will held a short metal rod in front of him. He pressed a button and
both sides telescoped out, leaving him with a spear in his hand.
“Besides, I need to practice with the new toy you gave me,” he said.
“You’ll get your turn,” Eva said, turning back to me. “Come on.
Do it again.”
I held out my hand to Will and he tossed me his spear. “Let’s see
how I do with this.”
Eva flashed me a smile. The one I’d seen far too many times on the
deck of the ship. It was the smile right before I got my butt spanked.
Will and T-Rex hooted at the challenge. T-Rex got out of his chair and
joined Will on the railing like they were at a boxing match while Eva
and I circled one another on the deck.
“Are you going to make a move?” Eva asked.
I didn’t reply. I concentrated on her movements, moving the spear so
that the tip created a figure-eight pattern like Eva had taught us.
Eva feinted to my side, testing me. But I didn’t take the bait.
“Good,” Eva said. “Better.”
She made a run at me and we exchanged a flurry of blows, the sword and
spear banging off each other. As we parted, I nicked the shoulder of her
leather suit. It didn’t draw any blood, but I knew Eva felt it.
“Yeah!” Will yelled. “That’s the way.”
“Get him, Eva!” T-Rex cried.
Eva and I circled each other again. Testing. Waiting.
“I’ll admit, you’re improving,” Eva said. “You even look good
doing it. Kind of cute, actually.”
I felt my face flush at the comment. I paused, caught off-guard…and
that was all she needed.
She lunged forward, smacking my spear to the side with the flat side of
her sword, rolling her body along its edge until she was standing in
front of me, my spear tucked under her arm. With a simple twist in the
other direction, the spear flew out of my hands and skittered across the
She spun and placed the point of her blade against my throat.
I gulped nervously, but nodded for Eva to look down.
Hovering right over her rib cage was my long dagger.
Will and T-Rex clapped. This was the first time I had even gotten close
to beating her. Eva didn’t share Will’s enthusiasm.
Eva pushed me away and glared at us both.
“You all seem to think this is a game. It’s not,” she said.
“Dying alongside your opponent still means you’re dead.”
“You’re just mad because he almost got you,” Will said.
Eva walked up to Will. She wasn’t that tall but she still towered over
him. She leaned down so they met eye-to-eye. Will, never one to back
down, glared back at her.
“Wait until we get to the Academy. You won’t last a day,” Eva
said. She turned on her heels and stalked off into the ship’s cabins.
“What’s gotten into her?” T-Rex asked.
“We’re getting closer to the Academy,” I said. “She’s the only
one who really knows what we’re in for.”
“So?” Will said.
“I think she’s scared for us,” I said.
“Oh,” T-Rex said, rolling the idea over in his mind. “I didn’t
think of that. Do you think it’s going to be that bad?”
“Nah, she’s just trying to spook us is all,” Will said, the
certainty gone from his voice. “Don’t you think, Jack?”
I shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”
We stared out over the water, each of us alone with our thoughts of what
the Academy might be like. Eva had told us very few details beyond a
brief history of the place.
Set up in the mountains near the border between France and Italy, the
Academy was the last holdout of an ancient institution that had trained
monster hunters for centuries. Even as recent as a few decades ago,
there were several such places on every continent. But modern technology
was making it harder and harder to remain hidden from the public eye.
This mountain hideaway was the first Academy, and, according to Eva, it
might be the last as well.
“Eva told me that there were real monsters kept in captivity there for
the training exercises,” T-Rex said. “Do you think that’s true?”
I shrugged. “We’ve both known her for the same length of time. Have
you ever heard her exaggerate about anything?”
“I guess not,” Will said. “This is gonna be awesome.”
I smiled. Will was always the eager one, ready for anything. While this
often got him into trouble, I wished I could be more like him. When I
thought of Eva’s nervousness for us, all I felt was a twisting knot in
my stomach. But I wasn’t going to the Academy to participate in their
little training program. The only thing I cared about was finding Ren
Lucre’s dungeons and then freeing my father. Eva had promised that the
head of the Academy, Master Aquinas, would tell me everything she knew
when we got there. I was counting on it.
A soft bell chimed from up in the control tower, a deep, resounding
clang that guided our ship safely to shore. I followed the tower’s
smooth, sheer walls upward, its top seemingly missing as it disappeared
into a thick, swirling shroud of mist.
Three men walk along the balcony outside the steering house. The captain
of the ship was one of them, noticeable because of the red glow from the
tip of his cigar. These men were true sailors, paid off by members of
the Black Guard back in America to take on three stowaways. Sure, a
plane would have been more efficient, but try to leave the country when
you’re a kid without a passport. Not that easy.
I was about to turn to Will and suggest we head down to bed when I heard
the first scream.
It came from a few stories above us. It was a man’s scream, but
high-pitched and filled with terror. A cigar hit the deck next to us.
Instinctively, both Will and I crouched down to the ground, swords up as
Eva had taught us, looking up to the balcony overhead. T-Rex just stood
there, mouth open and gazing in the direction of the scream, clutching
his sandwich to him. I reached out and pulled him to the ground next to
The fog descended further and covered the balcony in a thin, wispy haze.
Through it, I could still see the dark shapes of the men on the balcony.
They ran back and forth as if trapped. The captain cried out, his arms
raised as if to attack something. He struggled with some unseen force,
then tipped precariously over the railing.
“Watch out!” I cried.
The captain stood for a second, then stumbled as if forced by a strong
shove. He fell backward over the railing.
“No!” Will shouted.
But just as the captain was about to hit the deck, a tendril of cloud
bolted out from the mist and wrapped around his leg. He jerked to a stop
just above the hardwood surface, held tightly by his one leg.
I breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short-lived.
Two other men tumbled down from the balcony, screaming. They were also
caught at the last second by long wispy fingers of mist and held upside
down off the deck. They struggled and kicked, but they could not free
The fog churned and swirled and I thought I saw bodies rolling just
under the surface. Every so often an arm or a leg broke out from the
cloud before dissolving into the night air.
“What is it?” T-Rex whimpered.
“I don’t know,” I whispered back. “But it can’t be good.”
Without warning, one of the tendrils of fog snapped back and forth like
a whip being cracked. The sailor flew through the air, smashed into the
wall, and crumpled to the floor.
“Definitely not good,” I said. “Come on.”
We ran, still low to the ground, staying as far from the ceiling of fog
as possible. In front of us, the second sailor was tossed through the
air, end over end until he smacked into the wall.
I lifted my sword over my head as I neared the captain, still hanging
upside down. With a yell, I jumped onto a cargo crate and vaulted into
the air, slashing the dense cord of mist just above the captain’s
But my sword went straight through it like there was nothing there.
I landed hard on the deck, rolled forward and ended back up on my feet.
In seconds, Will and T-Rex were at my side. Will brandished his spear.
T-Rex still had a death grip on his sandwich.
“Impressive,” Will said. “Now what?”
The mist churned and grew thicker directly above us. There was a
swirling vortex, like the beginning of a tornado.
“Run!” I yelled.
Just as I did, the vortex above us transformed into wide, gaping jaws
lined with horrific teeth.
We sprinted from the deck, T-Rex screaming as we ran.
The jaws descended on us, a thick neck of white fog behind it. Luckily,
we were already on the move as the massive jaws chomped down on the deck
where we had just been standing. Shards of wood exploded into the air
from the impact.
We ran into the hallway connecting the two sides of the ship. It was
open at each end so I could see the night sky rise and fall through the
gap at the opposite side. I spun around and saw that the fog was still
chasing us, its front end crystallized into nasty looking spikes. As we
ran down the hall, we suddenly saw a thick white fog engulf our only
“We’re trapped!” Will shouted.
“This way!” I shouted back.
I opened a hatch in the wall and climbed in. Once on the other side, all
three of us heaved against the thick metal door until it swung into
place. I tried to spin the wheel to lock the door, when something heavy
hammered in from outside. The force of the impact pushed the door open a
few inches. We threw our shoulders into the door and slammed it back
“Lock it!” Will yelled.
“I’m trying!” I said, lurching the wheel mechanism over, between
the violent bouts of hammering on the outer side of the door. “Push
harder! Both of you, on three. One…two…THREE!”
Excerpted from "Jack Templar and the Monster Hunter Academy: The Templar Chronicles: Book 2" by Jeff Gunhus. Copyright © 2013 by Jeff Gunhus. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.