Secret Guardians by Lian Tanner

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The Rogues book 2. Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760293536
(Age: 9-13) Recommended. Themes: Good and Evil, Witches and Warlocks, Fantasy. Lian Tanner's exciting fantasy adventure series continues with Secret Guardians. She builds a world where evil forces are ever present, danger lurks in the forest and magical talents are needed to traverse the difficult times ahead. Her detailed narrative takes us into challenging places with child slaves imprisoned in the salt mines and the Stronghold, a fortress where the malevolent Harshman draws strength from the blood of his felled victims.
This second novel takes place immediately after a magical escape from the Stronghold. Disguised as a travelling troupe of actors, Lord Rump, granddaughter Duckling, Pummel the farm boy and Arms Mistress Krieg have fled with one-legged Otte the real heir of the kingdom. Pummel and Duckling are learning to use their magical gifts, the power of the wind and the raashk, the secret cover of invisibility. Old Lady Skint and her henchman are on their trail determined to capture them and claim the reward for the return of the Young Margrave. They trade in human flesh, selling children and adults to work in the salt mines,
The oppressive conditions the children are forced to endure, hard labour, little food or water, even sleeping underground is confronting. Duckling, Pummel and Otte learn to rely on each other and help the others. Sooli a SAAF girl, leads and protects the youngsters, she too has magical powers and is quietly plotting an escape. Plots and subplots, tests and trials, friends choosing their own paths, ghosts in the hidden tunnels and dreams foretelling the future heighten the tension and drive the pace. For comic relief, Frow Cat and Otte's talking chicken assist with their plans and help with their plans.
Secret Guardians delivers strong and quirky characters, learning to make their way in this magical world. Tanner's junior novel is suited to confident readers who will discover how the fight of good and evil occurs in this magical kingdom.
Rhyllis Bignell