Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, 2019.
Guardians of Magic is the first book in a new fantasy series written and illustrated by Chris Riddell. It’s set in the kingdom of Thrynne, a place where fairy tales misbehave and magic is forbidden. Yet there is ancient, powerful magic in Thrynne. The source of this magic is the Forever Tree, hidden deep within the Great Wood. It imbues other trees in the wood with magic, and objects made from this wood are magical too. Three of these magical objects are destined to come into the hands of three ordinary children, Zam, Phoebe and Bathsheba.
I really liked the book’s structure; in the first three sections of the book we meet each of the children in turn. They all live in different parts of the kingdom: Troutwine, Nightingale and Beam. Each of them faces danger and has to flee. Their paths cross and their fates coincide in the Tumbledowns, on the edge of the Great Wood. The final part of the book sees the children working together to save the kingdom’s magic before it is destroyed by a cast of villains hell-bent on ruling the kingdom.
The book is beautifully illustrated throughout. I have long been a fan of Chris’s style; his pencil drawings are full of wonderful detail, in particular the maps and cityscapes, and he brings his characters so vividly to life. He’s also included two cross sections of houses (one of my absolute favourite types of illustration) and a full-colour fold-out guide to giants.
Chris has deftly interwoven characters from fairy tales into his story – the Pied Piper, a gingerbread man and the three bears, for example – and he’s introduced a lively array of his own characters too. Among them there are winged cloud horses, an army of tin men, oversized rats, sinister mechanical beetles, a cat orchestra and a water badger. The children’s nemeses are Tiberius-Tiberius, the King Rat; the Clockmaker (a power-hungry inventor); and Euphemia Goldencurls, professional Princess and giant slayer.
Young readers will enjoy seeing the three children teaming up together, using their wits to overcome evil. The themes of loyalty and friendship will appeal too. The book conveys important messages about the power of nature and how the natural world is something that we need to protect. The storyline about the giants and the townsfolk of Beam teaches us that two different communities can live harmoniously alongside each other; there is nothing to fear in ‘the other’.
Guardians of Magic is a great book. There’s plenty of action, lots of magic and an exciting amount of peril.
Suitable for children aged 6+
Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for sending me this book to review.