Note: I received a digital copy of Guardian of the Underworld from the author for review consideration.
I really enjoyed this book! It makes me smile just thinking about it. Although I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, this book took the interesting parts of fantasy (exploring a new place, discovering its history, learning that you can do magic, etc.) and left out the parts that I generally don’t enjoy (elves, dwarves, long descriptions of the surrounding countryside). In other words, this book is less Lord of the Rings and more Suzanne Collins’ lesser-known series, The Underland Chronicles, and that’s why I enjoyed it.
(I feel I should mention that the story is set somewhere in England, or so I assume from the smile-inducing usage of “whilst” rather than “while,” among other language quirks. This may or may not have contributed to my enjoyment of this book.) Jake is eleven years old, and he loves exploring the woods outside his grandfather’s home. When one day his grandfather is found dead in the house, on the same day that Jake sees a mysterious cloaked figure wandering through the woods, Jake is pulled into the fate of a mysterious place called the Underworld. Along with his friend, Arianna, Jake discovers what lies within a secret room in his grandfather’s house and finds out his own role in the Underworld. Arianna’s sister, Maisy, is kidnapped by the Underworld bad guy, and Jake and Arianna have to enter the Underworld and complete a series of tasks in order to rescue her.
To be honest, my favorite parts of this book took place in the real world, rather than the Underworld. I loved seeing Jake and Arianna discover different aspects of this new magical world and how Jake’s grandfather might have been involved in it. Once they finally got to the Underworld and were running around with Noggin, an Underworld creature, to try to complete all the tasks, things seemed a little rushed. Each of the tasks seemed like it was completed a little too quickly and easily to have the reputation of being impossible that they were supposed to have. Also, because the focus was on the tasks and on rescuing Maisy, we don’t get to see a lot of the world. There is an awesome cart system that reminds me of the system in Gringotts Bank from Harry Potter–that was pretty cool. But I would have liked just a little more time in the Underworld in general.
All that said, this is supposed to be the first book in a series, so I look forward to where the author takes Jake and Arianna in the next book–hopefully it will include more about the Underworld (without getting into tediously long descriptions, that is…). I’m definitely interested in reading the next one!
Rating: Pretty Darn Good