Guardians Inc.: the Cypher
(The Guardians Inc. series, Book 1)
Fiction, YA Fantasy
DESCRIPTION: Since Thomas Byrne's parents vanished, he's been living in California with his grandfather, Morgan. They love each other, but nothing truly takes the place of a boy's mother and father. Morgan also never anticipated having to raise a fifteen-year-old boy on his limited income. Since becoming the boy's legal guardian, money has become tight, and few people want to hire a seventy-odd-year-old man with arthritis and diabetes. That is, not until Thomas discovers an odd ad in the local paper, printed in a bizarre language that seems to translate itself before his eyes - an ad for an assistant librarian at a place neither of them have ever heard of, though it's barely two blocks away.
The strange old mansion on Pervagus Avenue belongs to Guardians Inc., an international corporation so vast it might as well control the whole of humanity... or the world. They are actually an ancient organization, an alliance between men and magical beings, dedicated to promoting responsible technology and holding a primordial evil at bay. Every five hundred years, a new chapter is written in the Book of the Concord, another chance for the world to tip between technology and magic, order and chaos. Thomas and Morgan prove to be Cyphers, capable of reading and understanding any written language, which makes them perhaps the only humans on Earth capable of reading the newest pages... which are being written even now by the Oracle, in a location hinted at by a variety of cryptic clues. If Guardians Inc. finds the Oracle and the book first, the world will survive as it is. If the shadowy Warmaster and his Azure Guard find it, they will unleash long-dormant magics to purge humanity from Earth and bring about untold destruction.
The newspaper ad said nothing about saving the world...
REVIEW: I wanted to enjoy this book. It had some nice ideas going for it, avoiding a few common traps of the normal-boy-finds-magic-and-learns-of-his-destiny formula. A few of his enemies are hard to spot at first, and others who made me suspicious prove to be true allies. Unfortunately, for every trap it avoided, this book falls into two or three more. The author tries too hard to cram too many ideas into the mytharc; everything from elves to hyperfuturistic technology to Nostradamus to Lovecraft and more are squeezed into one convoluted backstory and shoved into the narrative. Thomas also remains naive for far too long, with too many privileges being granted rather than earned. I have a hard time believing that Guardians Inc. could've lasted as long as it has if all of its employees are as inadequately trained for their jobs as poor Thomas and his grandfather were. One brief orientation session, and suddenly Thomas is supposed to be dealing with potentially dangerous customers and even more dangerous books? And this is before he's aware of the full scope and depth of the company... as if looking up books that he knows should not exist wouldn't be a tip-off that something very, very strange is going on. He's not the only Guardian employee without adequate access to information. Even his gargoyle bodyguard Henri turns out to need extra combat training - which I would think would be a prerequisite of the bodyguard job. This stumbling and bumbling accounts for a good part of the book, as the setting and characters are laboriously established. Despite this lag, the story finally picks up to a decent pace, only to be cut off hard by an abrupt cliffhanger. I knew it was Book 1 of a series, but I was still caught off-guard.
Guardians Inc.: the Cypher reads fast, and presents some decent ideas. Ultimately, I just couldn't muster much interest in it, let alone in the series.
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