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Guardians by Alan Titchall

Updated: Jun 28

Guardians is a book of three parts that follows Robert Smith’s journey through life after he finds an injured white fantail as a young boy, which opens up a spiritual dimension. Written as a mystery-thriller, it follows him from the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 as an eleven-year-old boy through to life in 1995 as an adult.

In the first section (a condensed version of his first acclaimed novel, While the Fantail Lives), Bob lives in a small hydro village in New Zealand with a colourful collection of local characters. There is his Nan, who is a great cook and even better storyteller, who is looking after him and his dad after his mother suddenly left. Kurt Smidt is teaching him German and telling him his war stories. Mrs Poi is teaching him Maori. Frank is a mysterious young American who turns up on his motorbike. Ivan Volkov is a Russian with a terrible past. Young Bob is caught up in an adult world with troubling secrets and while he is nurtured by relatives and befriended by residents, we learn they have their own agendas. His young girlfriend, Sam, is also caught up in this adult world, causing her trouble that will haunt her life.

In the second part of the novel, we are transported to Northern Ireland in 1979, where an assignment in the special services goes terribly wrong, and Robert is left disfigured.

The third part of the novel takes us to 1995, when Robert returns home to New Zealand. We meet all the colourful characters from his past again, but now Robert is an adult we finally learn new truths, and nothing is as it first seemed. After deception and hostilities, Robert returns to a small village from when he was a boy for a final showdown and to reach his final destiny. All the while, the fantail is an integral part of the story, and we find there are mortal and spiritual guardians looking out for him.

The cast of characters is the highlight of this expertly crafted novel. Guardians is a filmic read that you will want to savour—a thought-provoking, original read.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan



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