Warden’s Vengeance (Ancient Guardians, #4), by Tony James Slater
The new year’s first review and, again, it’s a difficult one to write. In part because I did somewhat enjoy this latest instalment of “Ancient Guardians”. On the other hand, though, in spite of being a page-turner, I was constantly shifting between liking and hating this book.
First of all, it’s more of pretty much exactly the same as in the previous books – Tris is fighting for peace in the universe, tagging along are Kreon, Kyra and the others. There’s a new babysitter as well who remains pretty bleak and shallow, though.
The gore is back as well – not quite as annoying as in the third book but it’s still there, it’s still annoying and completely superfluous. I’m convinced it’s included for the kick some guys get out of such stuff.
Back in force as well are the typos, ungrammatical sentences, bad formatting, etc.; while I really think self-publishing is a great thing, one should at least make better use (or try to engage better) beta readers:
“One the one hand, a man like Gerian would demand the best when it came to his guards;”
Mistakes like that are just annoying and you’ll find lots of them – much more than in the previous books.
Exactly the same is also Tony’s tendency not to miss any cliché:
– Blood-thirsty monsters with razors on their hands? Check!
– Killer robots? Check!
– Murderous emperors & their clones? Check!
We’ve seen all of that before in science fiction films or read it in other books – just usually in a more original way. The way Tony works with his material more and more feels like he has simply reached the limits of his writing skills.
Tony writes hilariously brilliant travel literature but I grow weary of his juvenile kind of story-telling. Once the novelty had worn off, the mediocrity began to shine through.
Tony very, very clumsily tries to address issues of morality when he makes Tristan kill someone but it doesn’t get beyond the most trivial observations:
“ had seen the darkness in him, and had called him out on it. And Tris had killed him for it. ”
Another huge issue for me was that our heroes – as likeable as they may be – seem to have no real discernible talents beyond very specific “attributes” – Kreon is pretty much “bullet-proof”, Kyra is a great pilot, Ella’s talents as actually witnessed seem to be mostly restricted to the bedroom – in spite of her claim to be an assassin priestess – and Tris acts first and thinks afterwards. But at least he has his glaive and now a brain implant.
While they’re supposed to be high and mighty, what actually saves them is mostly dumb luck or the author’s liberal use of deus-ex-machina moments which Tony is at least not shy to acknowledge:
“Luckily, he had a miracle on speed-dial.”
There are tons of minor issues like the practically indistinguishable formatting mess that telepathic conversations are or stating the obvious: ““Guess we’re going that way,” Kyra said. And they did.”
And, still, “Warden’s Vengeance” with all its faults is a suspenseful, exciting book that I both loathe and like. Thus, I’m going to finish this series and will avoid any further fiction by Tony.
I suggest you simply pretend Tony never wrote anything but his wonderful travel memoirs which I can only highly recommend (especially Kamikaze Kangaroos!: A trip around Oz in a van called Rusty).