A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers not familiar with the Northeast United States and the Washington, D.C., area can look up places mentioned on the main characters' trip south. Author includes a note about "The Awakening," a real sculpture but one that's housed in a different place than he describes in the book. Also, there are a few mentions of the Bible verse, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
Good vs. evil is the obvious: The Blood Guard protects innocent people, and the Bend Sinister tries to kill them. Friendship, resourcefulness, and bravery also are explored.
Positive Role Models
Ronan's a pretty conscientious character, always concerned that he's not making the right, good decisions he needs to make. Both he and Greta are very resourceful, brave characters. Dawkins proves to be a good protector of the teens, but he's also prone to stealing wallets and cars.
Violence & Scariness
Four almost-deaths are pretty violent: a beheading, a character getting hit by a truck, an electrocution, and a frightening medical procedure. But Ronan (and readers) only witness the last one. Characters who survive the impossible (yes, even the beheading) are magically mended -- one complains how much the process hurts, and the other walks around without a head until they find it. The character who actually dies is electrocuted and turns to dust. Bad guy vs. good guy skirmishes involve bullets, swords, martial arts moves, and a special fire gun. Young teens are chased and captured, then threatened with hand amputation. There's also a bus crash, mentions of deaths of parents years before, a house fire, and a bloody nose from a bully. Mentions of a group of people deliberately sought out and murdered to bring about wars.
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Two uses of "badass" to describe Ronan's mom. When Ronan says "hell," his mom tells him not to.
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Products & Purchases
One character plays on his PS3 constantly -- Dragon Ball Z especially. Plus mentions of Zippo lighters, Cadillac, and VW Bug.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Blood Guard is the start of a planned fantasy trilogy. No surprise that with the word "blood" in the title, some blood is spilled. A few almost-deaths are violent -- especially a beheading and a truck running someone over -- but the acts aren't shown and the good guys have regenerative powers. One bad guy dies for real from electrocution. Teens are chased, kidnapped, and threatened with hand amputation. A few skirmishes involve swords, guns, and martial arts moves. All other content is pretty mild, with some mentions of PS3 games and a couple shout-outs to the main character's mom being a "badass." Teen characters must decide who the good guys and the bad guys are. They always choose the good side and fight for them bravely.
Is It Any Good?
THE BLOOD GUARD sure gets off to a great start. Ronan's mom kicks some butt, drops a bombshell about her secret life, then drops him at a train station crawling with bad guys. Then he's on the run. Then he meets Hawkins, his pickpocket protector, and Greta, a girl with mad skills -- she was trained by her FBI father. Then they're on the run. And still on the run. And getting chased -- same thing. Exciting for a while, sure, but the reader needs to know the point of it all way before the middle of the book. "They must be the bad guys because they're chasing us and look mean," we're told -- but that's not enough to go on.
Revelations about the Blood Guard and the opposing secret society (the Bend Sinister -- fabulous name!) finally come to light, albeit pretty late in the game. Still, with Greta and Ronan's place in the Blood Guard established by the end, the sequel looks promising.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.