In Brief: Fine, but nothing special; time travel and subsequent dilemmas
Published in: 2002
Age Range: Young Teens
Setting: Small town in Australia
- 16-year-old Ethan is one of the Guard, Named and trained since the age of 4, to protect Time and Space from the Order of Chaos.
- Isobel is the 15-year-old sister of Ethan's former best friend. She is also Named, but doesn't know it yet.
- Rochelle is the girlfriend of Isobel's brother Matt, and the cause of the rift between Matt & Ethan
- Arkarian is Ethan & Isobel's mentor, a 600-year-old adept among the Named.
Ethan must train a new apprentice in a hurry before setting off to 13th-century Westminster to make sure that History follows its true path. The apprentice turns out to be 15-year-old Isobel, already an experienced fighter and expeditioner. In the background, Ethan is wracked by nightmares of the time when his sister was killed, he believes, by a monster human.
The Named travel from place to place and from time to time in their sleep, and on several such trips Ethan makes mistakes and takes controversial decisions which leave him facing a Tribunal at which his fate is to be decided. At the same time, a group led by the man who killed his sister is trying to pervert the course of history and Ethan must risk his place among the Guard to prevent them.
This book borrows from too many sources and doesn't pay enough back. There's almost nothing here which isn't culled from some other source in the corpus of fantasy fiction or film, and the presentation lacks lustre or anything special. The whole issue of travelling back in time to make sure nothing goes wrong is hardly new, but it always seems to create moral dilemmas which could never be, when there are more than enough to be going on with in our world anyway.
To go through the checklist - Sage and dignified mentor of uncertain power and mysterious origin? Check (Arkarian). Young hero with special powers? Check (Ethan). Feisty female sidekick to said hero? Check (Isobel). Mysterious female opponent? Check (Rochelle). Travelling from one place to another with mythobabble explanation? Check (Guards' souls travel when they sleep). Group of people set aside to save the world / universe / existence? Check (the Guard). Opponents of said group called something like “The Order of Chaos”? Check (The Order of Chaos). And so on, and so on. It's not that it's especially bad; it's just not especially anything else.
There is a certain dignity about the various Kings of the Houses in the Tribunal of the Guard, and there are rules which have to be kept, except when it suits the plot.
Update: Natalie White, aged 14, has a different opinion of the book's quality: “The trilogy is, by far, the best series of books I have ever read, and I cannot express how much I resented completing them, wishing I could go back and read them all over again! Four days ago I turned fourteen, and I found the books to be suited to my age group, and, contradicting your review as far as I possible could, I found it to be a refreshing break from other fantasy novels... Certainly the good team v. bad team HAS been done before, but then again I think you'd be hard pushed to find a fantasy book which DIDN'T use this template. Although I am a fan of Harry Potter, I'd like to add that I found it FAR more satisfying, and much more believable, the soul-leaving-body idea sending a slight shiver down my spine when I read it, rather than raising an eyebrow at the typical wands and broomsticks of J.K Rowling's books.”
He then goes on to explain about the purpose of those that are Named to be members of the Guard. And how the Order of Chaos devotes itself to changing certain aspects of history, attempting to create an altered present that will evolve into a future environment that suits their own requirements. “Chaos, as we call this opposing Order, feeds and grows on evil — death, destruction, war plague, malice. The more they create, the larger their armies grow, and the smaller ours become
Tuesday 29th July 2003