“The Guardians Crest” is the third book in the “Guardians of Zion” series, and like the previous book, this particular volume makes the most sense if read in order, so you know the players etc. If you haven’t read the first two books, go do that now and then come back to this review, as there might be some mild spoilers for those books lurking in this review. Now, as is customary, the author starts the book with an introduction that 1. Kind of reminds the reader where the heroes left off and 2. Tells you a bit more of what this book is about and a little reasoning as to why Chrobak choose to start the novel the way he did: going back to when Thomas was first discovering his faith and powers. This time, however, we’re focusing on his little sister’s experiences, and the author also explains why he chose to include some of the demons this time. Normally, I’m not a fan of introductions like that because I don’t want someone to tell me what I’m about to read, but, for this book, I appreciated it because it was necessary for one very important reason: we don’t visit Thomas and where book two left off until about half way through this novel.
What a ride! Caligation is the name of the town—city? Let’s go with city—that Ripley Mason, our MC, finds himself mysteriously in after a terrible car accident. Struggling to understand how he got there and how to leave, Ripley starts wandering deeper into the city where he finds everyone has an effigia—think animal familiar—and some of the people are very much like vampires, while others are pretty much shapeshifters, and then others can manipulate a certain natural element, while others are just boring humans, but with the animal, of course. Everything is new and strange, and unfamiliar to Ripley who just wants to LEAVE, but can’t figure out HOW, and neither can anyone else he encounters in this strange place. Which lands Ripley in a metric ton of trouble as he inadvertently gets himself mixed up with the underground gangs in his quest to figure out what’s going on, and how he can get out of Caligation before it kills him.
“Unsanctioned Eyes” was like watching an action movie, but you know, reading. It’s got flavors that reminded me of “The Bourne Identity” but also solid military drama. Except from the “wrong” side of the aisle. Our main character, Quinn, does not work for the good guys. She is, in fact, a terrorist. She has reasons (which are kind of teased at towards the end of the novel) but the first book in the Dragonfly series is about Quinn’s character arc. The synopsis doesn’t really give a great idea of what you’re stepping into when you pick up Merritt’s book, so humor me as I try to elaborate, while staying far away from spoilers. You see “Unsanctioned Eyes” is the story of how Quinn, a top assassin working for a radical organization, finds herself in the precarious position of no longer being able to trust her handlers and the series of events that lead to that distrust. It’s how when one bad mission has her taking a hostage she wasn’t meant to keep has her questioning if the people she works for actually care about her life, and if she can continue on in the organization once she starts remembering the person she was before she became the Dragonfly.
“The Elf and the Amulet” is a charming fantasy-adventure story with the makings of a coming-of-age tale as our three main characters age throughout the series. Often, this book had me thinking of the journey in “The Hobbit” where it starts as just a fun adventure on something that sounds like a grand quest, only to show early on just how in over their heads the characters have become, and how much they underestimated the perils of their journey. Well, everyone seemed to underestimate the perils, because, after all, these are kids and the adults send them into the world with pretty much nothing.
“The Gates of Golorath” is one seriously epic fantasy. Garino has taken a page out of such ambitious story tellers as George R.R. Martin when it comes to crafting vast and complicated house lines and the ties that bind them, as well as the fragile balance that many hold for no other reason other than tradition. The book focuses mainly on Angus and Arielle, two “angels” (who felt like elves to be honest) who go to train at the Gates in order to keep the forces of evil from ever being unleashed upon the human realm (I’m paraphrasing). But Garino introduces the reader to A TON of other characters, sometimes even showing us the world through their perspective, thus crafting a world that was so rich and vibrant that sometimes my body ached in sympathy pains for all the trials that our “young” protagonists go through (I say young because even centuries old they are still considered children). We watch as Arielle and Angus essentially go through boot camp so they can better prepare to protect their world, all while the author explains just what they’re protecting against, and why. Most of the action and conflict in this book revolves around house politics and competition for the highest honor, but honestly, I loved it and didn’t mind that the bigger conflict was only hinted at in this first book.
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