2 out of 4 stars
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Orphaned at a young age, seventeen year old Darwin Hastings is brought up by his aunt. Now that she is dying, he is sent to New York to live with his cousin who is a famous wealthy football player. Darwin is excited and afraid; he yearns for the love he received from his parents before they died and become a doctor like his late father. But in his new home, crooks, and wealthy deviants abound. Time and again he is thwarted in his search for selfless love. Further in his quest to become a doctor, he not only discovers the altruism of health care but also comes face-to-face with the murky side of the medical world. Will Darwin be able to achieve his dreams and more importantly, will he find love?
With such a brilliant premise, one would have expected the author to churn out an engaging novel. But sadly, Guardian of Deceit by William H. Coles is the opposite of engaging. Often, I required an extra push to keep on reading. The author is a miser with his words, which results in a monotonous narrative. I felt as if a robot was telling me this story. I was unable to forge a connection to any of the characters.
The first chapter of the novel portrays Darwin to be a meek and lonely teenager. However, if the reader expects that the novel essays the metamorphosis of a timid boy into a confident individual, then she is wrong as this change happens within the first few chapters itself. His extraordinary maturity right from the moment he steps into his wealthy cousin's mansion is hard to believe. Not at all, did he seem like a teenager who is at the crossroads of his destiny. The author depicts none of the emotional turmoil that the protagonist goes through as he suffers from loneliness, neglect from his guardian, heartbreak et cetera. Besides, the author does not adequately describe the details of the surroundings. For instance, when Darwin first enters his wealthy cousin's mansion, other than a brief description of the gates, nothing else is mentioned.
Further, there is minimal character development. There are numerous characters in this novel, none of which are fleshed out properly. Some of these characters pop in and out without any explanation. Additionally, to stretch the novel, useless plot points have been introduced. For example, a murder mystery at the end of the novel seemed forced to me. I could not understand its significance - if it was to show that Darwin's so-called guardian is a deviant, then the preceding chapters had well established that, hence it was redundant; and if this mystery was included to create intimacy between two sidekicks, then it was a failure again.
The reading experience is also jarred by the fact that weeks and months pass between two chapters or succeeding events which is confusing. For instance, all of a sudden, readers get to know that Darwin is getting married. What made Darwin say yes to this marriage, what qualities in his wife enticed him - nothing is articulated upon. Lastly, the author has tried to deal with many complex issues here such as adultery, gambling and sexual harassment but has done justice to none.
However, Darwin's relationship with his cousin's grandmother and his cousin's wife are genuine and endearing. These two are the only people (out of the numerous characters present in this novel) who selflessly love Darwin and care for him. Moreover, Darwin is a do-gooder and tries to help everyone. This is the principal reason why people take a liking to him. Towards the climax of the novel, some philosophical nuggets have been shared by the author which will appeal to many.
There is only one word that can sum up the experience of reading this novel - disappointing. However, if the reader can somehow digest the mechanical nature of this book and Darwin's miraculous propensity for sage-like wisdom and maturity at such an impressionable age, then she can go for it. I found only two errors which do not have an impact on the reading experience. Thus, I rate this novel a 2 out of 4. Please be informed that there are some adult-only content present.
Guardian of Deceit
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