The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery
Updated: Aug 10
Love, loss and London during the Blitz...
What a book...I loved it! A magical mix of action, adventure, and a moral tale about love and memories conquering darkness and evil. I cannot wait to use this in my classroom - it will have the children hanging on every word - I was!
The main character, Col, and his Guardians (3 imaginary friends: a badger, a tiger and a knight - conjured up by his late father to help him chase the 'Bogies under the bed' away in his younger years, and continuing to protect him from evil even now) run away from his cold, seemingly heartless Aunt Claire with whom he's been billeted as a refugee, in a desperate race across time to save his sister from a German bombing raid foreseen in an apocalyptic vision conjured for him by the evil Midwinter King who is seeking to rule the spirit realm, cross over and defeat The Green Man, and bring eternal winter to the world....PHEW!
Confused? It does seem like a mixture of genres - an evacuee story a la 'Goodnight Mr Tom', and more recently 'The Skylark's War' and 'Letters from the Lighthouse'; a giant big-cat Guardian, fighting knights and other-worldly battles with creatures a la 'Narnia' and the 'Lord of the Ring' adventures, and a Midwinter King reminiscent of Game of Thrones 'Night King', complete with his own skeleton horse, army of giants and dark-metal sword, and the threat of bringing winter, death and destruction to the human realm...
In short, it has all elements of the classic quest, and utilises these to great effect as we join the characters and get to know their own back-stories as the journey progresses and the inevitable face-to-face climatic confrontation between good and evil occurs...
There is laugh out loud humour - Gog and Magog the arguing giants are great - I can't wait to read their parts aloud in class - and there is tragedy and loss - Col's mum and dad, and the missing family of Ruth, a Jewish girl who joins his runaway team, to add into the mix of talking animals and size-changing tigers, and it works, making you feel the desperation in their urgent race to London. I particularly enjoyed the extracts from wartime newspapers that preceded many chapters, the tension heightened by the warnings of blackouts, incendiary devices and collapsing buildings, and adding a touch of historical fact and reality to the otherwise fantastical tale. The added nastiness of an incident in the Underground after the final battle, with an ugly character and his sadly-still held views shows Ross Montgomery not afraid to address and highlight challenging issues, and provides a welcome opportunity to use this text as a prompt for discussion of serious and challenging issues, sadly as current today as they were back then, as well as using it as simply a great classroom reader in it’s own right.
There has been a lot of hype around this novel, prior to its September release, with praise and online adulation from reviewers such as myself alongside other children's literature luminaries such as Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Sophie Anderson amongst others - none of them shy of a tall tale themselves! This tall tale deserves it all though - I absolutely loved it and can't wait to share in school...it's going to be a classroom favourite!
Thanks to Walker Books and NetGalley for the advance e-copy - I'm so glad I didn't have to wait until September!