‘Guardians of Magic’ book review: New fantasy saga has more than a sparkle of magic


While the set-up seems worn, the story is fresh and exciting in the hands of writer Chris Riddell

John Millen |

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Guardians of Magic

By Chris Riddell

Published by Macmillan Children’s Books

ISBN 978 1447 2779 72

In a magical land, where evil forces are trying to steal all the good magic for their own nefarious ends, lives a group of ordinary teens, who don’t realise they have special powers, and are plucked from obscurity to ride to the rescue.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Thrynne, home to the cities of Nightingale, Beam and Troutwine (don’t worry, there is a map on the inside cover of the book, in case you get lost).

The set-up for Guardians of Magic is a well-worn one, but in the hands of master storyteller Chris Riddell, it feels fresh and exciting. If he can’t breathe new life into a familiar formula, nobody can.

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The former British Children’s Laureate’s previous works include the bestselling Goth Girl and the Ottoline series. Now he’s turned his talents to a new fantasy saga, The Cloud Horse Chronicles; Guardians is the first title in the series.

The novel takes us to Thrynne, a land where stories misbehave and where magic is always lurking in the most unsuspecting of places. The source of this magic is the age-old Forever Tree, hidden deep in the shadows of the Great Wood.

But the natural magic from the Forever Tree and the legendary Cloud Horses that live high in its branches are under threat from not one, but three power-hungry villains.

In the first chapters of the book, we are introduced to the three children destined to save the day. They don’t know each other, and all live in different parts of the kingdom.

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Zam Zephyr is a baker’s boy toiling away in the kitchens of Bakery No. 9 in Troutwine, helping concoct confections for the Grand Duchess of Troutwine. Phoebe Limetree is a young musician studying under the formidable Madame Arpeggio at Fairweather House in the city of Nightingale. And Bathsheba Greengrass is an orphan living in the Boot Tree Orphanage on the edge of the town of Beam in the Great Wood.

Riddell spends a lot of the book setting up his central characters and filling in their backgrounds. When Bathsheba, Zam and Phoebe’s paths eventually cross, they begin their jobs as Guardians of Magic.

Riddell has crammed so much into this tale that one read isn’t enough to take it all in. What’s more, the illustrations, also done by Riddell, are completely stunning. Riddell is known for his detailed and imaginative artwork, and his drawings are instantly recognisable because of the life he puts into the characters he creates.

Guardians of Magic is a beautiful book just to hold in your hand, and an exciting one to savour once opened.

John Millen can be contacted at [email protected]