The Keepers, book 1
Allen & Unwin (2010)
Welcome to the city of Jewel, where children are coddled and overprotected to the point of effective imprisonment. In a place where this has happened for decades, impatience and boldness are considered very wrong, and adults are almost entirely weak and ineffectual. Goldie Roth finds herself in a highly unusual situation when the ruler of the city, the Protector, tries to loosen the ties on the young by releasing them early from the guardchains of childhood, only to have an explosion suddenly destroy the fragile steps she had begun to take. The Fugleman, the city’s spiritual guide and leader of the Blessed Guardians – who ensure the safety of children (whether they need taking care of or not) – has his own agenda, one that is not at all on the same wavelength as the Protector’s.
Goldie is thrown into a whole new world when she takes an unheard of risk by escaping from her parents, hiding away in the Museum of Dunt with another runaway named Toadspit, and some very strange new friends. But the Fugleman’s plans soon impinge on Goldie’s newfound freedom, and threaten the safety of the whole city – can Goldie and the other Museum Keepers stop him, before it is too late?
I read this because I enjoyed the second book (which I received as a judging copy) so much. Reading a series out of order is often problematic, because you often already know the outcome of many events and the motives of some characters, and I would recommend reading this series in the order intended, for this reason. However, it was still an excellent fantasy book, aimed at the upper end of the middle grade readership (10-12 year olds) but solidly readable for an older audience as well. I liked the world-building created by Tanner, with its history and evolution explained but not info-dumped, and the characters were, while many, well differentiated and nicely individualised, not always an easy task.
As I said, I’ve already read book two in this series, and will keenly await the publication of book three, because Goldie and her friends are a lot of fun, with a dark undertone – just my thing!