David Copperfield Meets At the Back of the North Wind, A Review

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About Guardian of the Goldbreathers (from Amazon):

Twelve-year-old Liam Finley doesn’t expect anything good when he is forced to move from Dublin to his stepfather’s large country house on the edge of the wild woods. But after the first night there, Liam abandons his fears of dreary boredom when he discovers that fairy tales haunt his new home. Has he truly discovered a dragon egg?

The house’s old blind gardener Michael Moran claims to know Liam’s secret destiny, which lies in an enchanted Otherworld. He says Liam is the next Guardian of the Gold Breathers, a champion of dragons.
Time is not on Liam’s side. Can he complete his three tasks to prove himself as Guardian before the paths close between his world and the Guardian’s land? Liam wants to believe the mysterious tales of Michael, but should he instead seek shelter in the practical kindness of Hannah, the housekeeper who calls Michael’s stories “rubbish”? Liam’s heart tells him to trust the things of magic, but it’s the humans he can’t be sure about.
Themes in this story include losing a parent, family relationships, dealing with guilt, overcoming challenges, facing your fears, and standing up for what is right, even when it costs you something.

About Elise Stephens (from Amazon):

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. She earned her degree in Creative Writing at the University of Washington. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. She is a recipient of the Eugene Van Buren prize for fiction. Her previous novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), and Forecast (2013). She lives in Seattle with her husband and son.

You can connect with Elise on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

My Review:

I give Guardian of the Goldbreathers by Elise Stephens 4.5 out of 5 stars.

When his mother remarries a disgraced scientist, their new family moves to a country estate where Liam discovers a world beyond his own.This book has the feel of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and George MacDonald’s At The Back of the North Wind, so I’m not surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s the perfect blend of reality and fantasy, bittersweet in its execution.

I adored all of the characters. They were well-rounded, complex, and relatable, and I didn’t feel like any of them lacked development or depth. I especially appreciated Grace and her love of the finer things, and Hannah’s skepticism. I also thought Dr. Parker made a tremendously compelling villain, with his mad scientist ways.

Liam, though. Stephens gives Liam such a voice that you see the world through his eyes. I was able to feel (I mean, really feel) where he was coming from.

The world-building was vivid, and it wasn’t hard to imagine myself at a country estate, in a forest, in a maze, or in a tunnel with a smelly troll. Stephens describes her world masterfully, and I thoroughly enjoyed being swept up in it.

The story lagged a little as Michael relayed the histories to Liam, but overall the race against time kept me engaged from start to finish. I can easily see this book being made into a movie.

I can imagine it will keep fantasy-loving readers of all ages engaged, but I highly recommend this winner from Elise Stephens for pre-teens who love adventure stories based in folklore, fairytales, and mythology.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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