Saturday, 5 January 2013

Review: Guardians of Time Trilogy by Marianne Curley

It's tradition in my family now for myself and my sister to make the trip back to the homestead for the seasonal festivities, and 2012 was no different. What was a bit different was that, for the first time since I entered the working world, I had all of Christmas off; from the 22nd December to the 2nd January I was free, free to do whatever I liked (in the spare time between visiting relatives)! And naturally, being the kind of person I am, I spent a lot of this new-found free time digging out old favourites at home and reading them - three of which were these, the Guardians of Time trilogy. I'd stumbled across these books whilst a teenager and enjoyed them immensely at the time, then promptly forgot about for about 8 years. Over the Christmas break, however, I rediscovered them, and was delighted to find that they were as enjoyable now as they were then.

The story is centred on a small town in Australia called Angel Falls, which just happens to be built over an ancient city that is at the centre of a war between two immortal twins, Lorian and Lathenia. Whilst Lathenia and her Order of Chaos are attempting to increase her power over the world by sending her minions back in time to change the course of events in her favour, Lorian is doing his utmost to stop her with his own personal team - the Guardians of Time. As the prophesied final battle approaches and the number of attacks on history by Lathenia increases, the members of a crack-team of nine warriors with fantastic powers begin to reveal themselves - the Named. A motley crew of angst-ridden teenagers and wise elders, each with their own special gifts and grudges, begin to assemble under the guidance of an ageless leader to prepare for the coming conflict.

There's a bit of an upsurge of interest at the moment in young adult fantasy fiction; starting with Harry Potter and Twilight, there's also, of course, Throne of Glass, The Hunger Games and the Divergent series, of which the first book is soon to be a film. All of these comprise the same elements; a young adult with more power than they give themselves credit for and a bit of a tortured soul, a few conflicts and, at times, a fair bit of violence - all with an undercurrent of teenage lust running through. It's a shame, then, that The Guardians of Time has somehow been missed out, because not only do I think it fits the mould but I also think there's something pretty original here. For a start, the premise is a fantastic one; Chaos theory, the theory that our paths are pre-determined by the choices we do and don't make, is central to the plot, in which Lathenia sends her people back in time to assassinate an important historical figure, blow something crucial up, or steal vital objects. The Named, in turn, have to go back to the same time in history, find Lathenia's agents and prevent them from carrying out their work - essentially, making sure history runs it's true course. Not only does this mean you learn a bit about history, but it also presents the interesting notion of what would happen if history was changed; for example, the un-historical death of a famous political figure results in a massive change in the behaviours of the citizens of Angel Falls. Whilst I think Curley could've done more with this part of the story, there's still enough here to make your brain tick and wonder at the way in which our history has shaped our world.

Our protagonists are slightly less interesting, unfortunately; Curley spent slightly less time on them than the plot, clearly. A few stand-out characters do exist - Arkarian, the ageless, blue-haired, purple-eyed leader; Isabel, the fierce tomboy and Ethan, the unsure, eager hero. The rest, however, seem to be slightly-amended copies of these first three characters, despite being as central to the plot. All the girls are of a similar nature - strong, tough, powerful but with a vulnerable side - whilst all the boys are essentially the same as the girls, but a bit more conflicted. This makes for confusing reading at times, as trying to follow who-said-what when any of them could've said it is very tricky. Their saving grace, however, are their fantastic powers; each member of the Named have two - or even three - magical skills that help them on their quests. Ethan, for example, is able to create illusions so convincing that they become physical for a time, whilst Isabel has the power to heal others. It's the discovery of these powers, and what can be done with them, that propels some of the characters forward and gives them a bit more dimension. Curley also throws in a healthy dose of romance for several characters to round them out a bit more; with so many teenagers running around, there is obviously a lot of room for love - both unrequited and, er, requited. She manages, however, to weave the more romantic plotlines in without detracting from the main story; whilst in some places the feelings of the characters are almost essential to the plot, they're never allowed to overrun or detract too much attention from the main point. This means that, whilst there's probably more pairings, couples and lovelorn characters than your average series, it never feels like you're being smacked in the face with it; there's precious little mooning-around or brooding over feelings here.

The writing style also provides a point of interest. Each of the three books are told from the points of view of two members of the Named, with the chapters divided fairly evenly between them. This not only gives us two different points of view to how the mission against the Order of Chaos is progressing, but also allows - in some cases - the reader to be in two places at once; this is particularly true in the second book, The Dark, in which one character is abducted, and the others try to rescue them. Subsequently, we get to see the abducted character in their prison,  as well as the others attempting to find them. My only slight critique of this is the fact that it's kind of told as-it-happens; there's a lot of sentences like 'I can't believe my eyes!' and 'As I'm falling, I'm searching for the ground but it's so dark I can't see it!'. This style doesn't leave an awful lot of room for description or tension, and I found that there was a definite over-use of exclamation marks to identify where there was a surprise. This was distracting at times; when you're counting the number of exclamation marks on a page, you're not really focused on why that particular punctuation mark is required.

Despite the somewhat flat characters and occasionally-confusing writing, however, this is a fantastic series of books. It's a simple premise with a fair bit of magic thrown in, some tense conflict, a few romantic entanglements and a bit of history, all of which combines to make an ideal teenage read. Curiously enough, I think I enjoyed reading these more as an adult; I do distinctly remember being a bit judgemental and scoffing at these books from time to time. However, now I've found I'm able to appreciate these books for what they are: good, old-fashioned easy reads, designed to hook you in and hold your attention without taxing your brain too much. It's also a rare and curious thing that I'm actually lamenting the fact that there's not even a rumour regarding these books being made into films; usually I'm of the opinion that the books are always better than their visual cousins, but in this case I actually think the plot would translate really well to the big screen. All in all, the Guardians of Time books are not big, but they're kind of clever and they'd definitely be excellent for reading on a beach holiday or curling up on your sofa for an afternoon - depending on your budget.

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