The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

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The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: An enthralling, invigorating fantasy rollercoaster ride which moves at a breakneck pace curving round corkscrew bends. Roy leaves the reader dry mouthed and wide eyed with shock at cliff hanger moments in a book filled with exhilarating chases, action, adventure, magic and suspenseful twists.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: March 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781407136998

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It's a skilful author who grips the reader from the first word. From its killer opening line to the dazzling denouement Carter Roy's debut novel The Blood Guard, a popular nominee for the 2015 Northern Ireland Book Award, delivers. This fantasy extravaganza, aimed at readers aged 10 and up (that includes enthusiastic adults), starts with an unusual premise. It is based on the legend of tzadikim nistarim (the 36 hidden righteous ones) which can be found in the sacred text of Judaism, The Talmud. This tome states that the existence of these 'pure' people are the reason the Earth does not perish in fire ignited by the hand of God.

Carter explains how he decided to elaborate upon this concept:

Clearly I thought these special folks would need protection… and these protectors would have to be anonymous because part of what makes these 36 people holy is that they are oblivious to their 'pure' status. Also, what if some more or less functionally insane people wanted to kill the 36, to bring about the end of the world.

This gave him the idea of a gallant band of knights (inspired by King Arthur's Round Table?) named The Blood Guard opposing a menacing and sinister force solely to protect innocents. To this mix he added some sarcastic humour, magic and the mythology of the terrifying Golem to propel the story along.

We meet the main protagonist Ronan (don't call him Evelyn) Truelove when he is attempting to scale a burning building but what is it and why is it burning? This is the prelude to an exhilarating chase scene where the reader is kept in as much suspense as Ronan. During his travels he meets up with Greta who is irritating, overbearing; possesses a special talent for escapology, and Artful Dodger style character Jack Dawkins who is an unrepentant thief and a rapacious eater. Thrust into inexplicably perilous situations, Ronan discovers hidden prowess which surprises him when he is forced to act on the spur of the moment. Breathless cliff hangers at the end of nearly every chapter make The Blood Guard an exhausting, compulsive read tantamount to Bond action movie sequences and ideal for the silver screen treatment. Its quirky chapter headings and vivid treatment of locations is reminiscent of Rick Riordan while some of the more nail biting, knife edge scenes bear slight similarities to Pullman's The Northern Lights and Henson's The Dark Crystal.

The pace is relentless with the characters in almost constant danger but this makes it a breathless page turner. Dramatic set pieces take place in the environs of Washington DC and on the banks of the Potomac River. Here the activity focuses on an evocative, gigantic bronze river sculpture by American artist J. Seward Johnson Jr (formerly a tourist attraction in East Potomac but subsequently moved to Prince Georges County, Maryland) of a sleeping giant half submerged in the earth entitled The Awakening.

Rapid car chases, dazzling sword play, mysterious guns and parents burdened with secrets are just some of the surprises in this book. Why does Ronan's mother enrol him in so many extracurricular classes that he doesn't have a chance to make friends? How old is Jack Dawkins? What is his secret sorrow? How is Greta involved in Ronan's mystery? What happens on the train and at the truck stop? Who is Ronan's mother destined to protect? Can Sammy be trusted? Who are the Bend Sinister? What do the Hand and the Head do? What is a conceptacle? What does the Eye of the Needle mean? What has happened to Ronan's father?

To discover more enter the curious world of The Blood Guard; meet its feisty and unsettling characters and experience horror filled moments which feel like falling off precipices of shock. Watch out for that heart stopping twist. Although Roy wraps up the story effectively, happily there are threads left for sequels which are already on the way with the next one entitled The Glass Gauntlet.

For more books filled with action packed location shots, death defying stunts and stunning Olympic feats try Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, the Heroes of Olympus series and the Kane Chronicles or for gory adventure and chilling thrills sprinkled with some mythology Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda.

If teens discovering that they are part of an ancient prophecy, have been sucked into a nightmare or possess special skills appeals you should also read the engaging and magical The Emerald Atlas: The Books of Beginning by John Stephens, scary Malice by Chris Wooding and the cinematically charged House of Secrets: Battle of the Beasts by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini. Alternatively if you would like to indulge in the darkness of the Golem myth, try the amazing Secrets of Nicholas Flamel, starting with The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, or the gothic The Alchemist and the Angel by Joanne Owen.

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