Col is miserable. He has been separated from his beloved older sister, evacuated to stay with an aunt who does not welcome him- and treats him accordingly. When, as a final straw, he learns that the longed-for Christmas promised by Rose is not going to happen; she will stay in London to face the Blitz, he decides to follow that tickle in his brain and run away to the deserted family cottage to relive happier times alone. There the tickle becomes a reality – it is a call from the Guardians, his three imaginary companions from early childhood. They need his help. And so a desperate quest begins….
Take a sprinkle of magic from The Midnight Folk, a touch of the human warmth from Goodnight Mr Tom and perhaps the cold of the Fimbulwinter from The Weirdstone of Brisingamen – these are some of the elements that contribute to Ross Montgomery’s latest novel, a real page-turner. It is rooted in tradition – the journey, the jeopardy, betrayal and redemption, fantasy set firmly in the real world – the background the darkest moments of World War II as the Blitz reaches its climax. It can be tricky to marry the world of the imagination to that of the everyday. Montgomery achieves this with ease. The text is interspersed with exerts from newspapers and official announcements; the war is always there – but so are the Guardians, each with their distinct characteristics, the Midwinter King a truly terrifying adversary. Both Col and Ruth are very recognisable young people and young readers will want to accompany them as they face both human obstacles and giants from British mythology. The prose includes plenty of dialogue, is stylish and contemporary – accessible, carrying the reader through the adventures and bringing them to life. This is an author whose skills have been steadily developing and here we see him at his best – a promise of more to come. Highly recommended.