Thoughts on: Guardian of the Gate, by Michelle Zink

When I first read Prophecy of the Sisters (oh gosh, has it really been two years?) I fell completely in love with the story Michelle Zink had created. Then I began to pursue the Young Adult Gothic/Victorian genre further, and while it left my feelings on the story generally well in the positive, I also began to find the beginning to the series a little pockmarked. If you’re into this particular genre, you’re in luck because there is a veritable velvet pouchful of stories to choose from – Gothic Victoriana is so hot right now! And we have Stephenie Meyer to thank (though only in part, thank goodness).

I’ve already detailed a little about the trilogy here, but I’ll include the blurb to the second book which I will be reviewing in this post, just to be safe:

Sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe must journey to the uncharted isle of Altus to continue her search for the missing pages of the Book of Chaos – the pages that could tell her how to end the prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other. But the journey will test more than just her courage, it will also test her loyalty to her beloved boyfriend, James. Meanwhile, twin sister Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim Lia’s role as the Gate. And that’s not the only thing she wants from her sister: there’s also Lia’s true love. The outcome of their battle could have consequences of Biblical proportions and, in the end, only one sister will be left standing.

Guardian of the Gate is the second part to the trilogy, and whilst I certainly enjoyed the read, the book doesn’t escape from the issues I had with Prophecy of the Sisters. We can, however, start with the good news: the atmosphere in this trilogy is INTENSE. Like 90%-cocoa-in-dark-chocolate-INTENSE. I still love the woodsy setting, the dark houses on hills and the rushing river. But I guess there’s other things that are supposed to be present in this makeshift world; we just don’t really get to see much of it. So the world-building aspect is kinda weak.
The characterisation is much better than the first book, but still, the romance aspect definitely needs work. In Prophecy of the Sisters, the love interest is one-dimensional and feels tacked on. In Guardian of the Gate, the author has attempted to improve the romance and make it more real, but the potential for love springs out of nowhere this time, and I just couldn’t get into it. Basically, I felt detached from all the characters’ relationships – romantic or not – most of the time.

If you like gothic spins on your basic fantasy formula, then I don’t think you can go wrong with this book. The prose is nice and curly – it’s a bit of a mock representation of speech from the era, but it suits a younger adult audience well. If you’re a bit of a Picky Vicky however, might I suggest as an alternative the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray, beginning with A Great and Terrible Beauty. A book which has a similar feel, but with added extras: there’s some cute and light humour and the characters are much more fleshed out. A Great and Terrible Beauty also incorporates Greek mythology and a fabulous traditional boarding school – you can’t really go wrong with it.

All in all, Guardian of the Gate is a valiant effort and has a real grip on a ‘gripping’ atmosphere. I am still looking forward to reading the third and final instalment to the series and I can still recommend it for lovers of dark, ghostly YA fiction. In truth, though, this doesn’t really hold a candle against its main competition in the field, the wonderfully heart-squeezing Gemma Doyle trilogy. If you like the sound of this series, then you’ll LOVE that one.

***

I was given this book to review, by the luvvvverrr-ly people at Hachette.

Year of Publication: 2010

Pages: 340

Book Challenges: Gothic Reading Challenge

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Aimee Burton

Aimee Burton is a lawyer-in-training who still dreams of befriending unicorns. This blog will be her escape from reality, and hopefully it'll inspire her to finish writing that fantasy trilogy she's always promising her friends is "almost halfway" done.

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