An enchanting, lyrical middle grade novel about a girl who must protect her village from a menacing magical force, even as she discovers that there is more to her village than she knew. Perfect for fans of Kelly Barnhill and Anne Ursu.
Being a village Protector is a big job, even if Grandpa Widow makes it look easy. So when Grandpa Widow is suddenly called away, and Gussy has to step into the role herself, she barely feels ready to perform the magical Rites that keep her village safe from the Great Doom. On her very first night in charge, a mysterious newcomer arrives in search of shelter, forcing Gussy to break the number one rule of being a Protector: When the sun goes down, keep the gates shut.
But not everything in Gussy’s village is as it appears. And as the Great Doom makes its presence known, and the villagers all look to Gussy for help, Gussy will have to turn to some surprising allies to save the only home she’s ever known.
I received this book from the author/publisher via Netgalley. All comments and opinions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.
A girl who only knows that she mysteriously arrived to protect the village, with her dog and violin. A village that wants to be protected but alienates the protectors. And a dark secret that may destroy them all.
Gussy is a middle grade fantasy and naturally, I adjusted my expectations as such. But the truth is, I almost love middle grade fantasies more than young adult fantasies, so it hurts my heart to give this a two star rating, because I really wanted to love everything about Gussy. But I don’t know that I would’ve even finished this book as a middle grader myself, and I had to make myself finish it as a young adult.
The story carries much promise of excitement, but I think the main reason I had to push myself to finish it, is because it moves at a snail’s pace. Because the entire story takes place inside the walls of the village, the scenery bounces back and forth between, like, three scenes: a pub (I think that’s what it’s supposed to be), where Gussy and Grandpa Widow live, and walking around the wall as Gussy performs the rites to protect the village. So, it gets a little repetitive after a while, especially since this lack of scenery is paired with Gussy’s longwinded, storytelling narrative. It just didn’t move very fast and we spent a lot of time listening to Gussy tell the story with a focus on her own feelings, rather than the story. This is the same issue that I had with The Hunger Games when I read those books, where I couldn’t stand being in Katniss’s head, so perhaps this is just a personal preference for me and others may adore this type of storytelling. But, I just couldn’t click with Gussy no matter how hard I tried.
As for the other characters, once again, because of how the story is narrated, the characters are very much just “told” about, rather than allowing the readers to actually meet them. Gussy pretty much just talks about the other characters and gives you her opinion of them based on xyz, exchanges a few words with them as needed to progress the story, and then they really aren’t encountered again until they are needed again. So, even though I listened to the whole book, I don’t remember half of the character’s names and don’t feel as if I was ever properly introduced to them. I just know them through Gussy’s opinions of them, which weren’t always complimentary. I wish I had been given the opportunity to conclude my own opinions about them.
So, in conclusion, I almost DNF’d Gussy, but I stuck it out. And while I love Cricket, Gussy’s dog (I never forget the dog haha) and the idea of this story, upon finishing it, I just don’t think that I would recommend it to the middle graders in my life, unless for a very specific reading request that included a dog and a violin 🙂
Trigger Warnings: Death of parents, nightmares, mild magic spooks, and some use of animal parts for magic.