CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 20 . . . . January 27, 2012
The Guardian, the first book in the “Shadowlands Series,” begins with a prologue explaining a time when a human, the Unmaker, crosses into the universe of the Elementals intent on harnessing their magic and might to gain almighty power. The story then opens in the Shadowlands, a parallel universe where, even though there are gates to the human world, there is a treaty that states humans must never enter. Aria, a princess of the fairies, is acutely aware that there are powerful forces at work. Frustrated by a law that forbids the use of magic by girls, she flees before her power-hunger brother’s Initiation.
Meanwhile, 15-year-old Tavin has suffered great loss. His mother died in a house fire, and his father, overcome by grief, abandons the family, promising to return. That was two years ago. Now his sister Morenna, with whom he has a telepathic relationship, is gravely ill with an illness the doctors can’t heal. The children heard stories about their grandparents, who, when they were young, had magical abilities, but this was before their father forbade contact with them. But Morenna believes in the stories and has asked Tavin to journey from their home in Berlin to an abandoned village where their Oma and Opa are the only occupants to see if they can help cure her.
Tavin is followed by a young boy by the name of Demetre, who, although he discourages him from entering the grandparents’ house, becomes a companion of sorts. Demetre shows him the gate at the bottom of the garden, the gate his father walked through two years ago. Apparently, Tavin’s father was trying to find Tavin’s mother.
Seizing the chance before her brother’s initiation, the fairy Aria escapes the palace and flies to the people she thinks will help – the humans. Aria enters at the gate at the bottom of Tavin’s grandparents’ garden. After a rather unfortunate first meeting with Aria, Tavin accidentally wakes up the Goblin who is guarding the gate, but, unbeknownst to him, Tavin is saved by his grandfather. After his Oma declares it’s all been a dream, Demetre shows Tavin another gate, one which isn’t guarded. It’s upstairs in the attic.
Thinking only of finding a cure for Morenna, Tavin crosses over into the Shadowlands, a world of magic, mayhem and violence. After battling the huge spider, Madame Caveat, Tavin is rescued surprisingly by his grandfather. As Tavin is being healed, Opa explains that they both are human mages and were chosen by the all-powerful creator, Starbreather, to be Guardians. The Guardian’s role is to keep peace between the worlds. Opa shows Tavin a star-shaped scar on his hand, similar to the one on Tavin’s chest, and explains it is the mark of the Starbreather. In the Shadowlands, Tavin discovers his own magic and the powers of a Guardian. He teams up with Aria and other magical beings as they enter a thrilling fight to save both their worlds.
C. J. Gosling has written a complex story that revolves around the strong themes of good versus evil, self-sacrifice for the greater good and the importance of family. Tavin embodies the qualities of courage and loyalty that underpin these themes. Gosling has created a likeable hero in Tavin, and his quest will be followed with interest by readers. The closing scene where Tavin’s Oma declares her true self and ends the story with the words, “The war has begun” will have readers eagerly anticipating the sequel. Although appropriate for readers at the lower end of the recommended age range, it would be to a more accomplished younger reader that this novel would appeal.
The author’s time spent living in Germany is evidenced by the wonderful imagery she creates, and the reader feels, sees and smells all that is the Shadowlands. The voices of both Tavin and Aria are appealing and very believable as ‘teens’ caught in independent battles, but battles that have been become inextricably combined.
Angela Souza’s wonderful pencil illustrations herald each new chapter, giving readers a hint of what is to come.
C. J. (Charity Jean) Gosling lives on Vancouver Island, BC, and The Guardian is her first novel. The sequel, The Hand of Darkness, is due to be released in February 2012.
Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Librarian at the Whistler Public Library in Whistler, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.