The Stolen Guardian, by R. A. Meenan – Book Review By Fred Patten
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Stolen Guardian, by R. A. Meenan.
Los Angeles, CA, Starcrest Fox Press, October 2015, trade paperback $10.99 (430 pages), Kindle $1.99.
“Ouranos crept through the dense green forest, following an overgrown path leading toward the sea. He scratched the black fur under the short quills that topped his head and bent a catlike ear back with a frown, his bare, clawed feet padding noiselessly on the dirt. His simple red clothes, while appropriate for his royal status, made him feel too conspicuous against the green of the trees. He chanced a glance behind him.” (p. 9)
Ouranos is a quilar from the planet Zyearth. This first paragraph shows that The Stolen Guardian, Book One of The Zyearth Chronicles, isn’t set on Earth, and that the lead characters are furry but not based on any Earth-evolved animals.
With Chapter 2, though, we get a space patrol team, still not on Earth; the Zyearth Defenders (whose top agents are the Golden Guardians), and they are just funny animals in spiffy uniforms.
“A tall gray stag with silver antlers in velvet stood in front of Matt with a manic look on his face and a pistol aimed at Matt’s snout.” (p. 38) – “A white wolf with thin glasses and dark yellow eyes appeared in the hologram. His face looked worried at first, but immediately relaxed with relief. Matt allowed himself a smile. Lance Tox, Master Guardian of the Defenders. He’d normally never make personal calls, but Matt could tell he had been concerned.” (p. 67)
The Defenders also include a Maine coon cat, a badger, a dark blue frog, a cheetah, and others; presumably all bipedal and human-sized. Swearwords like “heck” and “darn”, common American/British names like Roscoe and Connor, and overly detailed descriptions like that below of the Defender Academy make The Stolen Guardian a good overly-sanitized s-f adventure for older preadolescents. In fact, it reminds me of the early TV s-f programs of the 1950s. Space Patrol. Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. With Earth funny animals and Zyearth quilars.
Izzy Gildspine is the quilar teenage heroine, shown on the cover (by Omni Jacala, a.k.a. Artsy Omni) holding an Ei-Ei Gem for focusing mental powers. She and Matt Azure, another quilar, are Golden Guardians of the Zyearth Defenders. They are returning to Defender Academy from a mission off-planet.
“The lower atmosphere clouds parted in front of their plane, revealing their first sight of the Defender Academy and the towering buildings of the campus. A dozen tall glass and metal structures peppered the southwest corner of the Yelar peninsula, casting heavy, dark shadows over the beach cliffs lining the channel of water between the peninsula and the surrounding islands. A thick pine forest lined the east edge of [the] campus, housing Solek’s Clearing and the main road leading to Yelar’s capital city, Corinth. Corinth lay north, a hundred miles or more out of sight.” (p. 25)
Suddenly they are fired upon by a mighty but strange weapon, which is their first warning that they and the entire Defender Academy are under attack.
The Stolen Guardian is solid action from the first page, with colorful futuristic elements and weapons like mind control, energy shields, and transforming people into sluglike black blobs. It can’t be called space opera since it mostly takes place on the surface of one planet, Zyearth. It is amateurish, but in a good way. It is simplistic enough that questions, such as why Zyearth seems to have no animals of its own besides quilars, but lots of Earth funny animals, would be overly pedantic. (There are occasional cryptic comments, such as to a past “genocide on Earth” (p. 74), that hint at future plots in Book Two.) When made-up alien words are used, they often seem too obviously based on Earth words, like Vasilefs (basileos) for king and Pringkips (princeps) for prince. Everyone talks in standard American English such as “yeah”, “hey guys”, “okay”, and “sure” and referring to someone as a “pushover”, except for one Zyearth scientist who talks like Yoda:
“‘You have not faith,’ Jaymes growled in his usual broken island accent, standing and glaring at Connor though [sic.] dark blue eyes. ‘They got guardianship just recent. Is not fair to base talent on one mission.’” (ibid. That’s dialect, not an accent.)
The Defenders seem to rely on short-range weapons:
“Matt wore his custom sword, the Flamewing, on his back. The sword flared out at the end, creating a series of short, curved “teeth” similar to a harpoon that were used for hooking and ripping flesh. He also held Izzy’s battle hammer, the Umbra, and a belt loop to hold the hammer at her waist. Sami [an arctic fox] had a pair of pistols on her hips and a white Gem with purple starburst in her Gem holster.” (p. 84)
The book, printed by CreateSpace, looks attractive with practically no misspellings or grammatical errors, but there are an annoying number of missing words:
“Izzy held out her hammer and nodded to Sami, who through the bush.” (p. 92)
But there are also nice touches, such as A.I.s that manifest themselves holographically as tiny winged dragons, and Meenan’s vivid wordplay:
“Rain poured down on Izzy like sharp needles and bubbled around the outside of her shield, running down it like water on glass. The engulfing fire subsided. Izzy screened her eyes with her left hand and glanced around. “ (p. 93)
This review has been heavy on technical criticism and light on plot description. That’s because the plot is also simplistic: Izzy, Matt, and the other Defenders investigate an attack on their Academy and find an ancient menace has returned to threaten all of Zyearth. The action is dramatic and fast-moving, and (since this is a series) it ends on a cliffhanger. As a bonus there is a standalone Zyearth short story, “White Assassin”, and a five-page Glossary that explains a bit more about Zyearth. For further details, see R. A. Meenan’s blog. Yeah, overall I’m looking forward to Book Two, which will hopefully be less amateurish. I was a Rocky Jones fan.