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Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Guardians of the Desert" by Leona Wisoker (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu and Cindy Hannikman)

Official Leona Wisoker Website
Order Guardians of the Desert HERE
Read FBC Review of Secrets of the Sands

INTRODUCTION: The author's debut "Secrets of the Sands" was a novel I found more or less by chance and which was an unexpected hit. This meant of course that the second book in the Children of the Desert series would be a high expectations novel for 2011.

I will refer to our review of "Secrets of the Sands" for a general overview of the series setup and since any discussion of Guardians of the Desert will include some major spoilers for the first book, be warned!

"In this sequel to Wisoker's acclaimed debut Secrets of the Sands, the new desert lord Alyea Peysimun returns to Bright Bay in the company of ancient, mysterious Deiq, who has agreed to serve as her mentor, and the young Idisio, whose powers and history are only beginning to emerge. Alyea's changed status will upset a precarious balance in Bright Bay--but that is nothing compared to the hidden havoc her transition is already creating in the desert."

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Liviu: Guardians of the Desert continues the story from Secrets of the Sand essentially picking up where the other ends. While the first book was focused more or less equally on Lord Scratha and Idisio on one hand and Alyea on the other, this novel is 80% Alyea's and it deals with her acceptance of her role as Desert Lord and the consequences that flow from that.

I would not like to spoil Secrets of the Sands more than the minimum possible and a lot of the events that happen in the novel as well as the choices Alyea has to make and which essentially determine the direction both of the book and of the series can be understood only if you know the twists at the end of the first novel, so I will only remark that Guardians of the Desert brings full circle the story that started when the new king Oruen sent her to assume the Scratha's domain guardianship.

Both Lord Scratha through letters penned to Oruen about the nature of the South and Idisio appear too, though Deiq and several Southern lords - most notably Eredion Sessin the sort-of ambassador of the Desert Lords to the northern court and whose role Alyea may supersede - play a much more prominent role overall than the two main heroes of the debut.

Guardians of the Desert reads very much like its own novel too, not like a second half of a larger book and I think that is mostly due to the change of emphasis from a story of discovery and of venturing into the unfamiliar - both for the northern noble Alyea into the South and for the Desert Lord Scratha into the North - to a more traditional coming of age story, destined heroes and heroines and other standard tropes of the genre.

And here lies my main problem with the book - Guardians of the Desert offers the traditional story I expected and happily did not get in Secrets of the Sands, so a lot of the power and originality of the debut is lost. I still liked Guardians of the Desert due to the author' style that flows very well and kept me turning the pages, while the characters are quite vivid and you "root" for them - especially Alyea, but Idisio too - and I will recommend it unreservedly to anyone loving a good traditional fantasy novel, but I still wish for the "interesting-ness" of Secrets of the Sands.

The other issue I had with the novel - though less important since it is part and parcel of the experience of reading series - is that as a typical middle series book, Guardians of the Desert offers a story arc but there is no real resolution and it ends with a big to be continued.

Overall Guardians of the Desert (A) keeps the superb writing style of the author's debut and has in Alyea a powerful character one likes and roots for, but it is less innovative and considerably closer to following the "manual for writing genre fantasy" than Secrets of the Sands.

I have been eagerly awaiting Guardians of the Desert. Secrets of the Sands was one of my favorite novels for the year and I couldn’t wait to see where Leona Wisoker was going to take the series.

Guardians of the Desert is a very middle series book. It develops the characters and furthers the plotline but it does so in a rather middle book way. While I don’t believe that this hurts the series it could be taken as a drawback to readers who were so enthralled with the unique features that came with Secrets of the Sands. Secrets of the Sands was so special and unique that it would be hard to live up to it in every single book.
While I loved Guardians of the Desert I did find it a little hard to jump into. It took me at least the first half of the book to recall events that happened and who each character was. I would have ideally liked to see more references to the previous book so it was easier for me to remember and recall events.
Overall I loved Guardians of the Desert and found it an engaging read. It was a great read, lovely plot but it definitely didn’t have the special flare that the first novel did which wasn’t the author’s fault but more my own expectations.



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