2 out of 4 stars
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It's somewhat apt that the Guardian of Deceit by William H. Coles leaves readers confused and misled.
This book feels like a homemade blanket cover, where any old bits of material found lying around have been stitched together to form something recognisable.
Continuity issues and pointless distractions consistently bedevil Guardian of Deceit's attempts to follow a linear narrative. Characters, of which there are many and yet somehow not enough, are often baffling in their actions.
We follow Darwin, a 17-year-old orphan from Pittsville who is sent to live in the plush mansion of his sports star cousin, Luther. For reasons unknown, Luther turns out to be a strict guardian, denying Darwin his allowance and making him earn his keep in initially degrading manners. Luckily, aspiring surgeon Darwin is a dab hand at anything and everything and with everyone, breezily confronting gun-wielding villains, standing up for the many damsels in distress he encounters and coolly making $250,000 on a word game app he whips up for his gran. Sadly, as wonderful as Darwin is for the world and its occupants, he becomes one-dimensional quickly. Trumpets herald his arrival, and we know that whatever problem comes up, Darwin is the man to help. He will accompany the wounded, heal the sick and provide worldly-wise words to all, despite his callowness.
If Darwin can't solve it, the author corrects any issues by omitting the resolution. The vital big game tickets required to ease Darwin's entry to private school? We'll never know if he delivered them or not. Will Luther go to court or trial for shooting a gun outside a club? It doesn't matter, on we go. Occasionally, some chapters after the event, there is an explanation of events that ultimately feel like an afterthought.
Female characters are basic, especially the younger ones, who dream only of being loved, being pretty and making their men happy. Then add in a few clumsy and random musings about if they are gay to complete the stereotypes. I disliked this the most about the book.
The dialogue can be quick and snappy and gain real pace only for the author to tell us precisely what to deduce after giving us the 'show'. There are lots of point of view changes, too, which are very dizzying and leaving the reader unsure who is doing what and why. There are some long, garbled sentences and unclear antecedents. The book's central theme is ambiguous, too; it could be a coming of age, murder mystery, or romantic novel.
Many of the characters are affluent. The challenges they face are easily overcome because they have contacts and money. Their emotional states are not explored thoroughly, and it's hard to empathise with their shallowly drawn moral and love issues.
The novel's high points only showcase the low points discussed.
The book comes alive when William H. Coles concentrates on the older male characters or medical themes. Interesting ideas, philosophies and thoughts sporadically come to the fore, often with a light touch and a poetical observance of the world and were my favourite part of the book. Dr Malverne is the best example of this, albeit it does not fully explore his journey from dodgy practitioner to generous donator.
The friendship between Darwin and pop star Sweeney gives the book a backbone of sorts. Its exploration of the fine line between love and friendship is robust enough, teasing the reader with the classic 'will they get together?' scenario.
I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars because it's clear the author has talent in telling a tale, just not always in order or with characters that best display his writing strengths.
I would recommend this book to older teenagers, or indeed anyone, that wants an accessible beach read. I wouldn't recommend this book to people looking for a book with hidden depths, layers or insights on the world. Guardian of Deceit is a tough book to categorise.
Guardian of Deceit
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