Try lives with his mother, sister, and two brothers in a small house in a village by the sea. Try’s father vanished at sea several years prior, but Try is not lonely because he has two good friends: Tallest, a large oak tree in the woods, and Hope, a star who watches over him. As Try grows into a young man, he is met with challenges he’d never dreamed of and meets them head-on with the support of his brothers and two friends. A danger no one has ever faced before is looming: a ship that is dark with shadows is coming to the village and Try must fight against the darkness to save himself and those he loves.
The Guardian and the Oak Tree is the first novel by author Ty Dubowsky and it is a solid debut. The village that the author has created both feels real and has a touch of otherness about it. The character of Try is complex and well developed. He’s a compassionate hero; one who regularly thinks of others before himself. His brothers, Peter and Kenzie, are characters with their own personalities and add a level of fun to the book. The female characters are, overall, less interesting or complex than the male characters. Try’s mother doesn’t rise to anything more than a source of maternal love and his next-door love interest, Kara, seems to serve no other purpose than to like and support Try (she is even described as the hero-following girl at one point). Try’s sister, Marsali, has the most interesting character change, but leaves the story once that moment occurs.
The book relies nicely on the concept of darkness and light (aka good and bad) throughout the book to describe the qualities of hope and emptiness. This is used to good effect within the darkness that Try and his brothers must face and fight against. The overall plot is a good one and has a wonderful and important theme of working to always find the good in others, even if it is just a spark. The book nicely shows all three boys being brave in their own ways and drives home the message that love conquers all. Overall, this is a solid book and fans of young adult fantasy will enjoy The Guardian and the Oak Tree.
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