This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Halflings, or don't mind knowing some major spoilers for it. Guardian, however, will remain spoiler-free.
Vigilance. The mission to safeguard Nikki Youngblood depends on the fragile alliance of two half-angel, half-human guardians, both struggling with intense feelings for the girl who has been assigned to their care.
Mace, steadfast and deeply in love, wants to protect Nikki at all costs, while Raven's loyalty to Nikki finds him advocating for her independence and battling his own darker inclinations. At the same time, Nikki finds it harder and harder to choose between the two heavenly beings she may never have.
Dangers intensify, and tensions between Mace and Raven flare as the purpose of their mission becomes clear. Can their defenses hold up to master manipulator Damon Vessler and the powerful secret he holds regarding Nikki's heritage? Can anyone protect Nikki from her true purpose and destiny?
If Halflings had me torn, Guardian has me ripped apart. And not in a good way. Sure, Halflings disappointed me in some respects, but it at least still had enough to make me hope for improvements. Guardian managed to do nothing but infuriate me chapter after chapter. But let me start at the beginning.
Nikki Youngblood has lost everything she knows and loves. Her parents were murdered. Her house was emptied by her mysterious godfather. Even her dog was slaughtered by hellhounds. All she has left to cling onto is her half-angel protectors, two of whom are trying to become a bit closer than protectors. So it just stands to reason that they all need a vacation.
Yep, no Twilight rip-off here; this love triangle is on the move. And what better way to solve angsty problems than trapping eleven teenagers on a boat together? Obviously God knows what he's doing here.
Okay, all joking aside, there seriously are eleven teenagers on a private boat crossing the Atlantic for about half this book. During that time Nikki is both focusing on training herself in otherworldly matters and trying not to cause either of her love interests to give up their eternity for her. Add that to thrilling activities with the other Halflings such as shopping (with the girls Vegan, Winter, and Glimmer), homework (with Zero), and admiring the view (of Ocean, Sky, and Dash [characters, not scenery]) and she has a busy schedule indeed.
Nikki's emotional range for the majority of this book went from Woe is me to I'm a horrible person. The few times of happiness she experiences are always overshadowed by the fact that she's hurting her other love. That's right, she's still deeply in love with both Mace and Raven. But when she finally makes a decision between the two, she happens to overhear everyone talk about how she's damning him, and how selfish she is, and how it would be better if they'd never met.
And therein lies one of my biggest peeves of the book: the villanization of women. Yes, Nikki is being an idiot stringing along two guys, but they're allowing her to do so. Neither of the guys seems to have a problem with knowing they're both under consideration. But to everyone else, she's a whore and a temptress. During one of the eavesdropped conversations, they even go so far as to make this reference:
"God was the perfect father, yet Adam still chose sin."
"Yes. For a woman." [Location 2588 of ARC]
In one of the other overheard conversations, Glimmer, who has never liked her, makes the comment that if [Boy] is too stupid, then Nikki should be taking matters into her own hands and leave. Vegan and Winter stay silent, which Nikki takes as agreement. Once again, the blame of the matter lies not with the boy, but the inherently evil woman. Obviously Nikki, and her feminine ways have seduced the half-angels into romancing her. And if their minds have been overcome by her poison, then it falls to Nikki to do the right thing.
Oh, please. I'm all for girl power, but there's only so much for which Nikki can be held responsible.
But speaking of the guys, here's how they hold up in this book. Mace is still head-over-heels over Nikki. He may have feigned trying to cut back on courting the human, but he's back in full-swing here. From close-quarters maneuvering to giving gifts, he's one love-sick puppy. That is, until he thinks Nikki has made her choice and is now his property.
I kid you not. Once Raven is out of the picture, and Nikki is supposedly his for the taking, he gets super pissed off at every independent decision she makes. She decides to try training against a hellhound without his supervision (but other Halflings) and he flies off the handle. She goes out for a motorcycle ride without him, and she's being reckless. She gives someone a goodbye kiss, possibly for forever, and he tells her she needs to "Stick to the rules" before storming out. Even rag-doll Nikki realizes that's going a little far.
But it's okay because Mace is instantly sorry that his actions had repercussions and totally wants to accept Nikki for who she is now.
And then there's my boy, Raven. Raven comes off as a little douchy-er at times, but other times he's just as deep and romantic as ever. I'll admit, his attitude of 'you know you love me, and I can wait for you to figure it out' ground on my nerves. I remembered his cockiness, sure, but for him to tell her that to her face was just a turn-off.
I mentioned that Raven left the picture, and spoiler-ish, yeah he does. There's this huge event maybe halfway through where Nikki reaches out to Mace first/more than Raven, so he decides enough is enough with this mushy stuff, it's time to get some real work done. It's a little more complex than that, but you get the gist. He's still torn with the darkening of his soul and this quote really sums it up:
Raven cared about the society of one: himself. At least he had until Nikki. She'd changed him—both destroyed and remade him. There was a soul beneath his flesh. It had been a cold and shriveled empty place until she ignited it. Now it burned, and the awakened fire might kill him—if, of course, he wasn't already dead. [Location 2017 of ARC]Love has reawakened his hope to keep fighting the darkness, but at the same time that Love would condemn him to the darkness.
Which leads me to my greatest disappointment of the book: the twist. It wasn't completely out of the blue—I could see evidence for it in both the last book and this one—but instead of sucking me in, it was more of a let-down for me.
It turns out that Nikki is a Halfling after all! So... no addressing or overcoming the injustice in the Halfling system? No making interesting or controversial decisions? Great, it's City of Glass all over again.
Also, the explanations for why it was a surprise to absolutely everyone, including the semi-omnipotent ANGEL, read more like weak excuses than plausible reasons.
Evidence presented in Halflings:
- Nikki literally tears apart a hellhound, leaving only scraps of flesh and fur
- Being able to see in slow motion.
- Being able to see in no light at Zero's bunker.
- When female Halflings appeared, Nikki is described as passing as their sister.
- Halflings appear to be normal humans until they awaken their powers. Female Halflings don't awaken normally until 18-20.
- Nikki's eyes turn black on the verge of committing a sin.
No me gusta.
And did I mention there are also villains in this book? I mean, we know about creepy Damon Vessler (though, it seems no one EVER informs Nikki—bit of an oversight?) from book one, but apparently there are also Halfling hunters. Yes, apparently there are people who know about the existence of Halflings, and are trying to capture them with titanium. Also, these hunters know the Halflings are based in France and enjoy attacking innocents there whenever their plans are foiled. Want to know more? Too bad, 'cause there's no more information about these people.
Add in the constant female bashing, the disappointing twist that shouldn't have been, and sloppy writing including the Halfling hunters and two random instances of Vine narrating, and by all rights I should not be continuing this series. I shouldn't, I really shouldn't.
...But I will.
For two reasons: 1) I still like Raven. Like, really like him. And 2) Nikki post-twist interests me. There's such a huge, HUGE change that I feel like I'm reading a completely new story. I don't know that I'm looking forward to the next book, but at this point I'm intrigued enough to give it one last try. Oh, and did I mention it ends with a cliffhanger? That might have something to do with it as well.
Overall, I was disappointed with Guardian, but I think most fans of Halflings will continue enjoying the series. Most of the issues I had with the book were simply continued from the previous, so if you didn't mind them there, you probably won't notice them here. No language or sex to worry about, but it does have violence and dark overtones toward the ending. Based on the violence and the nature of some situations, I'd recommend it for high school and above. For someone already invested in the characters, this book will be impossible to put down.
Approximate Reading Time: 6.5 Hours
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Zondervan via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.