Wow! 'The Midnight Guardians' by Ross Montgomery is an exciting, enchanting and heartfelt story that already feels like a modern classic. Full of wit, wonder and hope, this is a stand-out children's book for 2020.
It's 1940 and Col is an evacuee, living with his aunt in the countryside. When his old imaginary friends come to life, it offers Col the chance to set off on a journey back to London to rescue his sister from the bombing raids. Riding on the back of Pendlebury, the tiger, with the King of Rogues, a knight, and Mr Noakes, a waistcoat wearing badger, Col's journey with his guardians is fraught with danger. The Midwinter King is rising, darkness is growing. Will Col be able to make it to London on time before the Blitz claims his sister's life too?
There is so much to love about this book. Col is an endearing protagonist: brave but scared, caring but cautious. His guardians are wonderful creations, providing lots of humour in their banter and warming the heart like the very best companions should do in children's literature. Imagine Dorothy's friends in the 'Wizard of Oz', except they're on a journey to London during the Blitz.
This is a tale, though, that is full of light and dark, full of hope and warning. Ross Montgomery masterfully balances the magical with the real. When the story veers into the allegorical, even the comic, Montgomery pulls us back into the stark reality of war. This is 'The Dark is Rising' with the light and dark stretched to their limits. In doing so, it enchants and scares, makes you laugh and well-up: the stakes rise and the tension mounts but there are glimmers of hope too. British folklore and myth are also brilliantly woven through the narrative, reminding us that the perils of war threaten the very spirit of a nation: nature, history, myth and family is all at stake. It is a powerful and gripping read - universal and necessary.
This is a fabulous story that deserves reading every winter by firelight. 'The Midnight Guardians' warms the soul; a book that lights up the darkness like sending flares into the night. And that is a true kind of magic indeed. Thank you Ross Montgomery!