“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.
“Truth Seer” feels like you’re reading the fantasy love child of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. In it, Moody creates a world where people now have, essentially, a super power that they can learn to use and hone to perfection to help them in a future career. Everything from tasting the weather, to feeling wounds in order to heal them with something more than a doctors touch, to seeing people’s emotions, including if they are telling the truth. Enter the main character Imara, a truth seer who uses her ability—or hila—to see when someone is lying. She wants to use her gift to help the police during interrogations, and she is THIS CLOSE to getting her dream job, when a terrorist organization, based in her hila school’s city of Egypt, crashes the graduation party and takes several people hostage—including Imara’s older sister Naki. Now Imara must use her hila to see through the lies—the illusions—that are keeping her away from her sister before anyone gets hurt.
This is a surprisingly cute and interesting take on a dystopian fantasy that is almost perfect for MG readers. I say almost because with the characters ages, I believe the author wanted this to be a YA fantasy, but with how the main character, Franklin, views the world and just the sheer whimsy of the mages, warlocks, oceanus, were-panthers, and how the limitations of the magic system and classes aren’t well defined, and are kind of left up to the gods, I think this makes for a much better middle grade book, so that’s how I’m rating it. “Zarmina and the Book of Oceans” is the first in the series, so it spends a good portion of the book introducing the reader to this new world, and why humans live on the star-side—aka, in the frozen dark—of this planet, and why the evil warlock, Javan, has banished them to such a harsh place.
“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.
I am trying to be better about reviewing middle grade books as my niece and nephew are getting to the age where they are voracious readers, and I want to be able to talk to them about their books. So here goes! “Keepers of the Flame” is the story of seven kids (all 13 years old) embarking on their birthright. This birthright states that all first born children are to become Keepers of the Flame: an order dedicated to protecting, serving, and bettering their communities by offering religious guidance. Over the decades, many people have gotten away from this birthright through taxes, or they join the order but aren’t true to their god—Jaoal. This has allowed something dark and vile to grow strong on the mountain where the young Keepers are trained, and by the time our main characters get there, the battle between good and evil is about to begin. There are so many important themes that are touched upon in this book that it’s definitely one of the ones I’ll be sharing with the young kids in my family!
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