Wednesday, March 08, 2023

The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1)

Soontornvat, Christina. The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) 
March 7th 2023 by Scholastic Press 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Plum lives with her grandparents after the death of her parents at sea, but it is an isolated life on their farm even though Plum has a special affinty for the plants and animals. When her grandfather applies to the Guardian Academy on her behalf, she is surprised to be accepted. She doesn't feel that she has magic, although her grandparents do. It's not an easy transition to leave home and go to school on Lotus Island. The children attending from Nakhon Island are wealthier and some, especially Hetty and Rella, make sun of Plum for having worked on a farm. At least Cherry is very friendly and supportive, and Sam, the wealthiest of the students whose mother Lady Ubon has provided him with his own private dorm, helps her when she needs it most. There is a lot of training involved so that the students can determine if they are going to be Heart, Hand, or Breath Guardians. Master Sunback, the head of the school, has been able to predict what kind of guardian each child would be, but hasn't been able to draw a conclusion in Plum's case. Plum also struggles because she doesn't seem able to do the transformation into animals that her peers seem to manage. There are some darker undercurrents: Lady Ubon wants Master Sunback to sell Lotus Island to her, and there is talk that magic is dying out. Rella struggles with transformation, and uses a dangerous and unapproved method. The children have visited some of the ruins nearby, even though they are later told they are dangerous, and I feel like the next books in the series might uncover some information about the island that leads to problems. Will Plum manage to pass her test and be able to continue her training on Lotus Island and become a Guardian?
Strengths: Remember Rodda's 2000 Deltora Quest? Mix that with Black and Clare's Magisterium type training, set it on an island, and you've got Plum's world. Soontornvat's note about why she wrote a fantasy series for younger readers was perfect; it is hard to find a fantasy series that isn't super long and hard to read. The bright, action packed cover will make readers pick this up (although I thought for a moment that it was a graphic novel like Liu's Wingbearer), and the mean girl drama and Plum's struggles will invest readers in Plum's fight. Another smart idea was to build the world of the school and set up the conflict without getting too far into the fight that Plum will no doubt be involved in, and just have readers get used to Plum, the Academy, and how the magic works. Now, if the series is five books long or shorter, it will be perfect! Book two, Into the Shadow Mist, comes out in July, 2023. 
Weaknesses: I wished that the book hadn't started with Plum conversing with worms, but then I remembered that when my daughter was in about third grade, she had pet worms, so the target demographic for this book might enjoy that bit!
What I really think: The pacing, explanations of magic, and interpersonal drama are perfectly developed for younger elementary students, and would be a much better choice for second and third graders than Harry Potter, no matter how "accelerated" they are. I'm debating this one for middle school. I've wanted a shorter fantasy series, but I not sure that seventh and eighth graders would pick this up. I would definitely purchase this for an elementary library and will take a look at a print copy. 


  1. Sounds a lovely fantasy for younger readers. When you say you are looking for a shorter fantasy series, what kind of length are you thinking of, and is it the 7th and 8th graders you have in mind for this? It sounds like there is a gap in the market so I'm curious! Thanks!

    1. Ms. Yingling6:37 AM EST

      Black and Clare's Magisterium is perfect for my upper MG readers who don't want 400 page books but still want a slightly darker story. Look at all of the veyr long Riordan style books in 8 book series! Plum is a litte too young for 8th graders, who think they are so mature!