Firstly, a huge thank you to Erin Lee for sending me a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review.
A human with dragon magic. A dragon desperate for his magic to return. A promise of revenge that ties them together…GoodReads
One of only ten humans with dragon magic, seventeen-year-old Alvis Witt is forced to hide his identity as a Talisman Wielder when all he wants is to fight alongside the resistance group, Linless. Then Alvis gets his chance to use his secret magic to rescue the dangerous and notorious dragon, Rae Bremmet, from the country’s heavily guarded prison. What seems like a simple mission twists into a series of events that leaves Alvis and Rae with a thirst for revenge for everything their corrupt homeland has stolen from them.
But Alvis and Rae can only agree on one thing—they fight best when they fight alone.
I am always on the lookout for more fantasy novels and books with diverse characters. So, when I came across this novel, the beautiful artwork on the cover caught my eye; I immediately went to GoodReads hoping that the description would grip me as much as the cover. After seeing that the novel was described as “an earnest yet light-hearted coming of age fantasy of sacrifice, friendship, annoyance-to-lovers, and what it truly means to trust another with your life” with the tag “gay magical dragon boys”, to say I was intrigued would be an understatement. Now I have finished the novel, I’m so thrilled that I stumbled across it!
I completely adored the characters in this novel, so many of their interactions (and, I’m not just talking about Alvis and Rae) left me grinning and addicted to see what they would do next. Both Alvis and Rae were brilliant protagonists for this novel, I loved how they were simultaneously different yet similar. You have Alvis who is brash, confident and reckless and then we have Rae who is quiet, reserved and strategic. However, they are both trying to find their place in the world that they find themselves in and haunted by the tragic deaths of those closest to them. Lee expertly explores the complex feelings of teenage angst, mixed with trauma and the heavy expectations of them which the boys navigate throughout the novel. I really liked the way Lee didn’t shy away from the boys struggling to cope with their intense emotions and how they would try to broach the subject of them with each other. Whilst this may sound like a heavy read for a YA novel, Lee balances this out well with humour, mainly through either Alvis or Rae (or, at times, both) being chaotic disasters.
In addition to Alvis and Rae, The Guardian has so many brilliant ‘side’ characters, some of which could easily carry a novel on their own. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this novel’s diversity didn’t just end with LGBTIA+ characters but also included characters of a different race as well as a prominent disabled character. In particular, I loved Tal and Aella, not only were they a wonderful Guardian and Charge team, they were great on their own too. Tal’s optimism and enthusiasm was infectious; it was lovely to see a character in a wheelchair and still included in doing all the same things as everyone else, even fighting in deadly tournaments. I was particularly surprised by Cian, even though he is one of the villains of the novel, I did still quite like him. This is primarily down to the chapters from his perspective which offered more insight into Rae’s past as well as his own which I thought were a nice touch. As this is the first novel in a series we are introduced to a lot of characters that we don’t see too much of, which whilst it was a shame, as I really liked brash Princess Meera and stoic Tahtsu, it’s understandable and I hope to see more of them in future installments.
Both the plot and the world that Lee has created is incredibly interesting with well thought out lore behind it too. I really appreciated how the reader is given the opportunity to work out what is happening with the protagonists in their introductory chapters before being clearer and giving more detail later on. At first I was a little confused over the role of the Guardians and the Charges, however as the novel continues this is addressed through a deeper look at the world’s history and through Alvis and Rae learning about the roles themselves. I enjoyed the pacing of the novel and quickly found myself captivated by it, I also felt my jaw drop on more than one occasion which just made me more excited to see where this series will go next.
Overall, I thought this was a brilliant introduction to a new YA fantasy series that will appeal to teens and older. The characters quickly became some of my favourites that I have ever encountered in this genre and will be ones that will stay with me for a long time. The book was a complete joy to read and I found myself with a genuine smile on my face throughout most of the novel. I highly recommend The Guardian to YA fantasy fans and for readers looking for more inclusive books!