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Unusual But Appealing Hero Team
on 7 April 2015
Morgan and Thomas are hired by Guardians, Inc., supposedly for one to work as an accountant and the other to work as a librarian. Turns out Guardians, Inc is a global organization engaged in a multitude of activities, some of which are magical, or at least fantastic. Morgan and Thomas have special skills the organization needs, and once they are aboard a world of adventure and excitement awaits for them, and for us, the readers.
That's fine. It's an honorable hook for a middle grade fantasy, and the author fairly observes the conventions and meets or exceeds our expectations.
BUT ALSO, the unusual and especially rewarding angle here is that while Thomas is a fifteen year old, Morgan is his seventy-two year old grandfather/guardian. Thomas sounds like, acts like, and is written to represent an actual fifteen year old. He's smart, resourceful. talented and decent, but also naive and inexperienced. Morgan is written to be a real seventy-two year old. There is no cute angle, or special twist, or zany approach. Morgan is not presented for light humor or comic effect. He is a competent, smart, grown-up with a gentle sense of humor and maybe a bit more of a reckless streak than his grandson.
These two characters are not presented as some sort of odd couple. Circumstances, (Thomas's mom and dad disappeared while on vacation), have led these two to share a household and they live together like real people, with affection, respect and the ocasional passing disagreement or mild conflict. I just think that that character choice by the author was inspired. (Especially because of Thomas's age. There are a lot of stories featuring little kids and their grandparents, but mid-teens and g'parents hardly ever appear in the same book, much less as equal featured characters.)
All of that said, I should emphasize that the character choice doesn't matter if the plot is lame or the writing is uninspired. I am happy to report that this book's story rollicks along, the secondary characters are well-imagined and engaging, and the overall feel of the adventure is light but satisfying. Thomas has a bit of a sneaker for a girl who also works for Guardians and that is handled with understated charm. The library Thomas works in is Borges-lite and sharply imagined. The quality of the writing is quite high, and there are a number of little bits of business and throwaway lines that reflect a subtle and observant author at work.
All in all I was delighted by this book as both a fantasy adventure and an interesting character study for middle graders, and am pleased to recommend it.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.