My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received a free review copy of Guardian of the Gold Breathers from the author.
Guardian of the Gold Breathers is an engaging novel for readers of middle-grade fiction that mixes magic and realism in a sometimes sweet and sometimes sad tale. Set in Ireland in the mid-20th century, it tells the story of 12-year-old Liam who is grieving the death of his father and trying to adjust to his mother’s decision to remarry, when he discovers that the world around him is not all that it seems.
There is a lot going on in this novel, and not all of it gels together well. The early chapters are quite heavy-going with a lot of info-dumping, and two of the supporting characters, Liam’s mother and his step-father, were a little thin. Although Stephens did do some work to flesh them out a little, these characters didn’t work for me. However, the gardener, Michael, and the housekeeper, Hannah, along with Liam, are much more interesting and well-rounded characters.
The writing really shines in the action scenes when Liam is undertaking the tasks to prove he is worthy of the title of guardian. Liam is must fight both internal and external struggles, and as a reader I cheered for him as he worked to achieve his goals, even when he made mistakes. Hannah and Michael are great supports for Liam in their different ways, and I especially found Hannah to be a warm and empathetic character.
Guardians of the Gold Breathers is not a particularly original book, and plot points are a little too contrived at times, but overall it’s an enjoyable read. Liam as the hero is a likeable character and I was invested in his success. It’s an easy to read, fast-paced novel that deals with real life issues of grief, the ethics of science, and cruelty to animals with a deft touch, and in a way that is appropriate for its target audience. A nice mix of magic and real life, Guardians of the Gold Breathers is a good read for children aged from around 9-12 years.