Max Helsing And The Thirteenth Curse

Paperback | September 6, 2016

byCurtis Jobling

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* "[A] gore-spattered, bone-crunching series opener."—Booklist, starred review
 
Max is just your average kid growing up in Gallows Hill, a small town outside of Boston—well, except that he lives in a gothic mansion with an old former prizefighter, and his after-school job is carrying on the monster-hunting tradition of his family, the van Helsings.
 
Despite the bloody legacy he’s inherited, Max always tries to be kind and fair to the ghouls, demons, and other creatures he encounters. So he’s confused when monsters start attacking him willy-nilly—even those he thought of as friends. Max discovers he’s been cursed by an evil Warlock who intends to reclaim the earth for the monsters. To save his life, Max must rely on his gearhead friend Syd, his boy-genius neighbor Wing, and his brand-new puppy for help. But time is running out, and if they can’t figure out how to break the Thirteenth Curse, Max—and the world as we know it—will be in deep, deep trouble… 

From the author of the Wereworld series!

“Max, a hero in the vein of a young Indiana Jones, is more at ease facing demons than managing middle school, and his wisecracking attitude and quick thinking make for entertaining reading." —Publishers Weekly

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* "[A] gore-spattered, bone-crunching series opener."—Booklist, starred review Max is just your average kid growing up in Gallows Hill, a small town outside of Boston—well, except that he lives in a gothic mansion with an old former prizefighter, and his after-school job is carrying on the monster-hunting tradition of his family, the v...

Curtis Jobling is the author of the Wereworld series, which includes Rise of the Wolf, which was shortlisted for the 2011 Waterstone’s Prize, Rage of Lions, Shadow of the Hawk, Nest of Serpents, Storm of Sharks, and War of the Werelords. He is also the designer of the worldwide hit children’s television show Bob the Builder, and the au...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 7.75 × 5.13 × 0.88 inPublished:September 6, 2016Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0147516110

ISBN - 13:9780147516114

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Chapter Eight: 'BREAKING STORM'By the time Max departed Helsing House, he was running horribly late. The business with Eightball had thrown his already poor timekeeping off kilter. His homework was done (a rare accomplishment in itself) but had been lost among the books and papers strewn across the apartment. His sneakers had been stored in the broom closet, the puppy managing to savage them with drool once he'd sniffed out they belonged to Max. Soggy chucks did not make for a happy Max. He and Jed couldn't believe the transformation that had taken place in the formerly friendly pet. In all the chaos, breakfast didn't even make it on the agenda—no toast, eggs or bacon—and this was his birthday!The sky boiled overhead as Max weaved along the road on his Chopper. Fast-moving black clouds churned over one another, flashes of lightning illuminating them from within as they threatened to burst at any moment. It didn’t surprise Max that Syd was no longer waiting for him at the entrance to Gallows Hill Burying Ground. The Chopper hopped the curb and hit the sidewalk. Max flicked his gear shift  as a raindrop fell and landed on his cheek. Just one; perhaps nature was going to go easy on him after all. A heartbeat later, the heavens opened.The downpour was almost blinding. He heard a roaring noise, surprised to find it was his own voice shouting against the sudden maelstrom. The gloom accompanying the torrential weather transported Max to a twilight world of whirling wind and water. He felt like a deckhand on Deadliest Catch, half-expecting a wave to crash over the graveyard fence and wash him away.But it wasn't a rogue wave that knocked him off his Chopper. Too late, he spied a pale spindly branch sticking out from the railings. Max had no time to evade it, and it caught him right across the throat. The bicycle skidded into the gutter as Max landed with a wet thump onto the leaf-littered sidewalk, breathless.His head spun and his tailbone hurt like hell. The last time he had been concussed had been during weapon training when Jed had brained him with a bokken. Admittedly, Max should have ducked before the wooden sword knocked him out. It wasn't a pleasant sensation. He squinted through the rain at the white branch that had struck his throat. Remarkable that the folk at Parks and Rec had allowed a branch to grow through the railings like that, thought Max. It was a law suit waiting to happen. He was toying with the idea of hiring an injury lawyer on a no-win-no-fee basis when the branch reached down and seized him by the hood.Max was hoisted off the floor, spluttering, blinded by the rain as the branch dragged him back against the railings. He felt it tight across his throat as a foul stench assailed his nose and caused him to heave. Then he was being lifted, his assailant dragging him up the wrought iron bars at his back. Max recalled the sharp spikes that topped the railings.He began twisting, bending his body and hooking his own limbs through the bars. Within moments he was at a ninety degree angle, horizontal parallel to the ground. The white arm strained as he torqued it to an impossible angle. The limb could bend no further. Max heard an agonised gurgle from behind that almost matched his own. He was choking, nearly blacking out. He threw his right leg up, the sneaker finding purchase between the spikes, and yanked himself up further in a quick, savage motion.The arm snapped, instantly releasing its grip on Max. The teenager prepared himself for the fall to the sidewalk, but he never reached it. He hung there, suspended upside down, a rusty black spike spearing through the right-leg hem of his jeans. His head was perhaps three inches from the paved path. He craned his neck and looked through the rails. It was exactly as he feared.There stood the ghoul Max had encountered the previous evening. It might have been a gloomy, stormy morning with no soul on the street, but an undead emerging during the daytime, brazen and unafraid of exposure—this was unheard of. The natural instinct for most all monsters was to hide from human sight, especially during the daytime. If they had to operate within this period, they would usually do so incognito, disguising themselves so they could fit into human society. The undead squeezed its face against the bars, black tongue running along its filthy teeth. Max swung his fists at the monster, jabbing at it through the rails, causing it to back away. Its pale white eyes looked up the length of the iron bars. It started to climb.Max placed his left heel against the crossbar at the top of the iron fence, frantically trying to force his right leg free. He heard the denim ripping as he twisted and turned, only for the stitched hem to resist, holding out against a complete break. The creature crouched on the top of the railings, bones and ribs protruding against its fetid flesh. Max could feel the blood rushing to his head. The undead graverobber was poised, looking down like some ghastly mockery of a mausoleum angel. Its jaws snapped together, and its clawed fingers scratched hungrily at its belly. What if this ghoul was no longer an exclusive carrion feeder? Max wondered fearfully. He stamped at the bar for all he was worth.The denim tore and the boy fell. Max went into a tumble, head, neck, back and legs tucking into a ball as he safely halted a few yards from the iron fence.The ghoul screeched angrily, seeing its meal escaping, and leapt from its perch on the railing, flying straight down toward the boy. Max was still in the tuck position on his back, looking up as the monster descended. He took its weight on the soles of his sneakers, the wind forced from his lungs as the creature landed on him. It may have been skin and bone, but from that height it still packed some force. The hands closed in on Max, reaching for his throat, as that long black tongue flickered, almost licking his face. Max pushed back. Hard.His legs straightened, launching the ghoul skyward. Its trajectory didn't carry it over the railings, but that hadn't been Max's intention. The monster came down with a splintering squelch onto the spiked heads of the rails. Four of them found their way through its torso, one through its skull. It hung there, limbs jangling in the gusting rain like some grotesque Halloween wind-chime.Max staggered to his feet woozily. He looked down at the torn leg of his favorite drainpipe jeans. A wave of nausea washed over him. He grabbed hold of the rails to steady himself and let the heavy rain wash over him. It could have been the adrenalin rush of the fight. It could have been the rushing blood now that he was the right way up again. It could have been the low blood sugar of an empty stomach.'And this,' said Max, panting and wagging a cautionary finger at the slain ghoul, 'is why you should never, ever, skip breakfast.'Chapter Nine: 'A WARM WELCOME'There had been no point in heading to home room. The best Max could hope for when he finally got to Gallows Hill Middle School was sidestepping the main office altogether. Chaining his bike to a rickety, overflowing drainpipe, a soaking wet Max had shanked open the boiler room window. With the heavens hammering down around him, he had squeezed through the opening into the basement, followed by a deluge of rainwater.After draping his damp clothes over an old gym horse beside the furnace, Max tied his chucks together by their laces before suspending them from the oven's grilled door. Then he sat down on an overturned bucket in his underwear and stared into the flames. Once first period ended, he'd get dressed again, head up into the school and simply blend into the mob. If asked, he'd claim to have been in school all along. The boiler room was the ace up his sleeve, just waiting for the right moment to be played.The Eightball incident seemed a distant memory now, merely an amusing anecdote after the ghoul attack. What kind of rotten luck was he experiencing today? He looked across at his rain-soaked sneakers where they hung. It was wishful thinking that they might be dry in the next hour. He picked up his messenger bag and began rummaging within. Max bypassed his schoolbooks, instead withdrawing a far more interesting tome.The Monstrosi Bestiarum was one of the oldest books in the Van Helsing library, a field guide to all things monstrous. The original author was a Teutonic Knight by the name of Buchner, a papal warrior who specialized in the hunting down and butchering of “unholy entities”. A fearsome swordsman, he was also a mean hand with ink and quill, recording the strengths and weaknesses of every monster he encountered. The book had eventually found its way into the Van Helsings' hands and been passed down from generation to generation. It was a Who's Who of monsterkind and the go-to resource whenever Max was in a creature conundrum.He flicked through the pages to the chapter on ghouls, which outlined five different variations of the beast. It was there in inked script: they were all strictly carrion feeders. Max double-checked the appendix for any recorded attacks upon humans, finding only a single entry from three centuries ago, and in that instance the ghoul had attacked in self defense. That one had chosen Max for a meal set alarm bells ringing. And the ghoul wasn't the only creature that had tried to take a bite out of him that morning.'I wonder,' he muttered, thumbing through the book, the pages illuminated by the fluttering flames of the furnace. 'Goodbye G, hello H. . .'The rain continued to patter on the basement window pane as it creaked and groaned in its broken bracket, but Max's attention was focused on the bestiary. Many of the illustrated pages were embellished with a host of horrible stains—blood put in plenty of appearances, as did mysterious blotches of black and green and the odd cloud of dried-up ectoplasmic residue. Max flipped past the hag, the half-elf and the hantu demon followed by harpies, haunts and the headless horseman. With a grin, Max slapped his hand down, holding the book open.'Now then, Eightball,' he said, tracing his finger over the entry for Hellhound. 'Let's see what got you howling and growling. . .'But before Max could read about the feeding habits of a Level I juvenile hound, the fire in the furnace spluttered out, plunging the boiler room into darkness. He clapped the bestiary shut instantly. The hairs on his neck rose, his exposed flesh shuddering with goosebumps. It had gotten cold very quickly in the boiler room, unnaturally so. His breath steamed before him; a ghost, perhaps? The only light source came from the busted window at street level overhead.'Aw, c'mon,' said the monster hunter, standing and searching the shadows for a sign of the intruder. 'That's a rotten trick, putting out the fire. Do you see what I’m wearing?' He edged closer to the furnace, peering past his swinging sneakers through the grille. The oven interior was pitch black, no sign of light or heat. 'I'm down to my unmentionables. A guy could catch his death of cold!''Not. . . cold. . .' came a quiet voice from within the iron oven.'Not what now?' asked Max, turning his ear and taking another step closer.The reply was a whisper.'Fire.'It started with the tiniest spark in the deepest recess of the furnace, before bursting into life like a newborn star. Max was already reeling back as an enormous ball of boiling flame erupted from within the huge industrial oven. The grate was blown off its hinges, narrowly missing Max as it rocketed past and embedded itself into the wall below the leaking window. His sneakers, singed and smoking, were still attached, bouncing against the wet brickwork like novelty baubles. Max scrambled clear as the fire spilled out of the fractured furnace, licking the floor all around him. His hair was smoking, as was the Monstrosi Bestiarum. He went straight for the book, smothering it with his chest and protecting it from further damage. Max backed up into the wall beneath the grille and chucks, shocked to see a figure taking shape within the inferno.When the fire found the ground, coal-dark feet coalesced, rising as they transformed into legs. Torso, arms and head swiftly followed, appearing fashioned from soot and shot through with veins of shimmering white heat. The spectre's charred head cracked apart, mouth and eyes splitting the black skull wide open, three fires guttering from its face. Max recognized the creature from the bestiary, but this was the first time he'd ever faced one: a fire phantasm. Born out of a human's terrible, fiery death, these could be good or evil. Max hoped this one was the former, but that seemed highly unlikely. The figure extended a flaming finger toward Max, the youth wincing beneath the intense blaze.'You are Mark,' hissed the fire phantasm.'Nope, I'm Max,' said the boy. 'Close, but no cigar—guess you got the wrong furnace. What’s this Mark’s last name?  Maybe I can-''Silence!' cried the apparition, its grating voice cracking.'Not a conversationalist then,' muttered Max, eyes flitting about for a way out of his fix. Once again, his messenger bag was out of reach, on the floor across the basement, smoke curling from the canvas. 'Can we start again? Hi, I'm Max. You must be Flaming-Hellspawn-Ghostly-Guy. Pleased to meet ya!''You must die, Mark!''Max actually, but, whatever,' he said with a shrug. 'Seriously, though, what is happening today? Is it open season on me or what?''Marked!  You are Marked!' cried the flaming phantom, staggering ever closer. Max could smell his hair burning now, the stink assailing his nose and throat.It was now or never. 'You must die! The fire take you!'The fire phantasm recoiled, raising its flaming fists over its head, the blaze brightening around it. As its limbs flew down, Max leapt up, bounding vertically up the wall, his feet landing on the furnace grille protruding from the crumbling bricks. Fire roared where the spectre punched the floor, cracking the flags and sending shrapnel flying. The iron grate Max perched on groaned, threatening to tear loose beneath his weight. The monster looked up at the boy, Max's whole body almost collapsing as the relentless heat rolled up the wall around him.'Face the fire, Marked One!'The fire phantasm's mouth yawned open, belching fire like the Balrog's kid brother. Max made one more desperate leap—again, straight up. His left forearm swung over the window ledge while his right hand ripped the glass panel off its splintered hinges. Below, the fire built in intensity. Max could feel the flesh on his back and legs searing, the air burning in his lungs.'You cannot run from the fire!''Who's running?'Max threw both of his arms out into the street, seizing hold of the swinging drainpipe and yanking with all his might. The curved end grated across the sidewalk as Max twisted it about, suddenly finding the rainwater surging straight at him, hard in the face. With his fingers and toes gripping the brickwork, he danced to one side before the torrent blasted him from the wall. The fire phantasm's glowing eyes blinked once in surprise as the waterfall crashed down, dousing its flames and consuming it in a giant, hissing roar of rage. With a woeful wail and thrashing of thinning limbs, the spectre crumbled to nothing, blasted to oblivion by Max's improvised hose.The entire basement was transformed into a steam room as Max slid from the wall and landed in a puddle, the rain still rushing in over his head. Of the fire phantasm, there was no sign.'Marked?' said Max, checking himself up and down for a telltale sign. He was clean, except for a pair of soaking, soot-covered boxer shorts. He hopped through the growing puddles toward the furnace, where his clothes remained draped over the gym horse. They were scorched dry after the encounter, which was a small blessing considering how thoroughly soaked his sneakers were now. He scooped them up in his arms just as the door to the boiler room swung open with a clang. The school janitor stood to one side as Whedon's furious face peered into the basement.'Helsing!' the principal roared. The boy winced and raised his hands.'I can explain,' Max lied.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Max Helsing and the Thirteenth Curse:* "[A] gore-spattered, bone-crunching series opener."—Booklist, starred review“Jobling ably pens a genuinely funny book without allowing the humor to overshadow the horror...A delightful bit of ghoulish escapism.”—Kirkus Reviews   “Max, a hero in the vein of a young Indiana Jones, is more at ease facing demons than managing middle school, and his wisecracking attitude and quick thinking make for entertaining reading. This action-packed thriller sets up what promises to be a series filled with legend, lore, and epic battles.”—Publishers Weekly"The allure of fantastical monsters, combined with the tried-and-true formula of kids saving the world, will surely draw readers to this novel and have them eager for future installments."—SLJ From the Hardcover edition.