I had been looking forward to reading The Guardians immensely, as I have always had a bit of a soft spot for ghost stories. Then my mum gave it a read and wasn’t hugely impressed. A bit of a hurdle, but then she and I have had wildly different opinions before, and who was to say that this wouldn’t be any different?
The story follows main protagonist Trevor and his childhood friends in two separate, but closely interlinked, story-lines. In the past, it follows their teenage selves in the aftermath of the disappearance of their music teacher, and the terrible events that happen in the abandoned house in Caledonia street. In the present, they are in their forties, returning to their home-town after the suicide of Ben, the only one who stayed after graduating high school; whilst sorting through his late friend’s belongings, Trevor finds himself having to confront whatever is in the abandoned house once more, lest it forever be a sword of Damocles.
It was okay. It kind of read like it had the potential to be a really great, grippingly creepy horror story about a haunted house, but was held back by certain elements that didn’t quite work. So what did work, first of all? The haunted house was pretty much perfect. The idea that the more you spent in the house, or even just looking at it, would make you more and more unstable and thus willing to listen to the evil spirit within? Now that was a concept that I could run with. And it did produce some genuinely eerie moments that were the real highlights of the book. But of course, there have to be downsides.
The first thing that instantly bugged me was the writing style. It was a fairly casual tone, but at the same time, overly wordy and a bit on the flowery side. If he could describe something in one piece of imagery, the author would use two or stretch that one bit of imagery to the absolute breaking point. It very much reminded me of my own writing at the pre-edit stage, which is possibly why it annoyed me so much.
Secondly, the plot is dragged down by a part of the story-line in the past, which seems to make little sense even in context. Okay, so their music teacher, a pretty young woman, goes missing and Ben says that he thinks that he saw someone drag her into the haunted house, which is across the street from him; he can’t be sure what he saw though, and it might not have even been human. Understandably, his friends are sceptical. So when he later says that he thinks that the person that he saw manhandling her was their hockey coach, what is their reaction? They pretty much instantly believe him. I find this a bit of a stretch of credibility really, especially since we as readers are kind of expected to just believe Ben as well, without any other evidence. Since I could never be sure that their suspicions were correct, it made what followed in that part of the story-line deeply uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen main protagonists do worse, but usually the text is self-aware enough to know that what they’re doing is wrong; here, it felt like I was supposed to sympathise, but it really didn’t sit right with me. Also, there were a couple of things that made the crime-reader part of me want to scream, because they do some REALLY dumb things during their investigation that would surely get them caught and at least implicated in a crime, all in the name of keeping out of trouble. Very frustrating.
Overall, a book that had potential, but was just okay in the end. The characters were serviceable and did what they should, but little more. The story was similarly average, with a few twists that I wasn’t expecting, but more than a little stupid plotting to balance them out. The haunted house sections were fantastic, all the more so for being surrounded by generally more mediocre parts. I really wish there had been more focus on the house, instead of the rest that didn’t work so much. 3/5
Next review: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman