The Adventurers Guild

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
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Kids battle monsters in fun, heroic, action-packed saga.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Rich vocabulary in context of story. Concrete opportunities to discuss issues of sexism, racism, and class.

Positive Messages

The positive messages are not just implicit, they're talked about directly in very real ways. One is about the rights girls deserve and the avenues open to young girls. Also discussed: issues of prejudice against families that are mixed racially, and differences in class privilege and opportunity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Liza is an active girl and a natural leader who makes her own opportunities when a career as a knight is denied her. She's a leader and is physically strong. Zed's shy and small, and often relies on Brock for protection, but comes into his own when he claims his magic. Brock's a risk-taking smart aleck who changes and grows when Liza and Zed challenge the status quo.

Violence & Scariness

Monsters bleed when they're killed, and the deaths are somewhat graphic. One monster is a wall of slimy ooze who eats animals and humans by absorbing them alive and whole. "The huge, lidless eye of the half-digested bear stared right at Zed." There are sealed jars with "fragments of bone and eyeballs." Liza bashes a guard in the head with a book so the kids can slip past. Jett's legs are paralyzed in battle.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Adventurers Guild is the first book in a new series by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos, two kids' book editors and Dungeons & Dragons aficionados steeped in the fantasy/adventure genre. Set in a walled city threatened by monsters, the book follows a small group of kids newly tapped to join the Adventurers Guild, soldiers trained to fight the monsters and protect the city. Since the two main characters are boys who are best friends (like the authors), it's a buddy book, but the Guildmistress is a formidable female, and the strongest and most daring of the new recruits is a girl who always leads the charge. The book includes characters both "pale-skinned" and "dark-skinned," touching sensitively on themes of race (Zed is half elven) and class. There's some violence battling monsters. Page-turning action and liberal doses of humor make this a compelling read.

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What's the story?

In THE ADVENTURERS GUILD, best friends Zed and Brock are hoping for exalted assignments at the annual Guildculling, but they get tapped to join the Adventurers Guild. This feels more like a death sentence than an honor, less an elite fighting force than a ragtag group of scrappy soldiers charged with protecting Freestone, a walled city that's "one of the last surviving cities in the world," from marauding, mauling monsters. Also tapped are Liza, a noble, and Jett, a dwarf. When the young recruits are sent outside for their initiation, a monster breaks through the magical field that protects the city. How can they strengthen the field? Is there someone inside the city who's trying to weaken it? As the kids go on a quest to find the "focus" to fortify the magic, they discover their individual strengths and powers.

Is it any good?

Battling monsters is loads of fun in this winning combination of fantasy, action-adventure, and humor. The Adventurers Guild starts with stock characters and formulas, and brings them vividly to life. Chapters alternate between Zed's and Brock's points of view, and their strong friendship is at the heart of the story. Zed's small, quiet, and elven, while Brock's brazen and always ready with a smart-mouthed quip. While he provides contemporary, slangy humor, their dynamic shifts in interesting ways. Brock also engages in some romcom-like sparring with Liza, and we wonder if sparks might ignite in future books.

Though the pages drip with monster blood, authors Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos also deal smartly and sensitively with issues of sexism, racism, and class. Liza, tutored in etiquette, is fierce and brave. Zed, half elven, has to deflect prejudice. And since the kids hail from different classes -- servant, merchant, and noble -- issues of class are talked about directly. The book slyly leaves some questions unanswered. As it ends, monsters are still at large, as well as some shady humans we've come to mistrust. Who's good? Who's not? People, magic, and even the choices the kids have to make are not always what they seem in this nuanced series opener.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fantasy in The Adventurers Guild. Have you read other fantasy adventures? How is this one similar or different?

  • Which characters did you originally suspect to be evil? What parts of the story pointed you in that direction? Were you surprised?

  • How are the characters fantasy-like? How are they real? Do you identify with any of them? Do any remind you of kids you know?

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