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The Midnight Guardians

The Midnight Guardians

Published: 5 Nov 2020

Paperback / softback, 400 pages

Recommended for age 9+ and 11+

By Ross Montgomery

Published by Walker Books Ltd

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This book features in the Upper KS2 War Office collection which is part of The Reading Journey

Sometimes at the darkest hour, hope shines the brightest... When Col's childhood imaginary friends come to life, he discovers a world where genre_fiction: myths and legends are real. Accompanied by his guardians - a six-foot tiger, a badger in a waistcoat and a miniature knight - Col must race to Blitz-bombed London to save his sister.

But there are darker forces at work, even than the Nazi bombings. Soon Col is pursued by the terrifying Midwinter King, who is determined to bring an eternal darkness down over everything. 

Tagged Christmas , First World War , genre_Christmas , London Blitz , tigers and war and conflict

Ross Montgomery joined Nikki Gamble In The Reading Corner to talk about his latest novel, a fantasy quest set during the London Blitz - covering subjects as diverse as Christmas, mythology, imaginary friends and the Kindertransport.

The Magical Mansion,Upper Key Stage 2 pack

Easy purchase - add our curated pack to your basket with one click

  • The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke
  • Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep
  • The Weather Weaver
  • The Midnight Guardians
  • The Last Spell Breather
  • The Girl in Wooden Armour

The Reading Journey Full Set UKS2 2021 pack

Easy purchase - add our curated pack to your basket with one click

  • Dog Man:Grime and Punishment #9
  • Tamarind & the Star of Ishta
  • When the Sky Falls
  • The Boy Who Met a Whale
  • The Shark Caller
  • World Burn Down
  • Zombierella: Fairy Tales Gone Bad
  • The Infinite
  • The Dream Team: Jaz Santos vs. the World
  • Dragon Mountain
  • The Lightning Catcher
  • Myths, Monsters and Mayhem in Ancient Greece
  • The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke
  • October, October
  • Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow
  • Indigo Wilde and the Creatures at Jellybean Crescent #1
  • The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh
  • Adam-2
  • A Glasshouse of Stars
  • You Must Be Layla #1
  • African and Caribbean Folktales, Myths and Legends
  • Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep
  • My Big Mouth
  • When Stars are Scattered
  • Orphans of the Tide
  • Icarus Was Ridiculous
  • The Accidental Diary of B.U.G.
  • On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold! A Funny and Fact-Filled Guide to Every Olympic Sport
  • D-Day Dog
  • Midnight Feasts: Tasty poems chosen by A.F. Harrold
  • Mason Mooney:Doppelganger Detective #2
  • The Biggest Footprint : Eight billion humans. One clumsy giant.
  • A Nest of Vipers
  • Wave Riders
  • Arctic Star
  • When Life Gives You Mangoes
  • Boy, Everywhere
  • The Language of Cat
  • The Monsters of Rookhaven #1
  • The Iron Man
  • Unbelievable Football 2 : How Football Can Change the World
  • How I Saved the World in a Week
  • The Thing At Black Hole Lake
  • The Undefeated
  • Comic Classics: Treasure Island
  • Where the Wilderness Lives
  • Class Act
  • Mason Mooney:Paranormal Investigator #1
  • Rescuing Titanic : A true story of quiet bravery in the North Atlantic

Reviewed by Ben Harris

The Midnight Guardians is typical of Montgomery’s stories, which are wacky, deeply serious, odd and quite unexpected. What I love about Ross Montgomery’s books is that they never repeat themselves. Neither does the author ever fawn over the latest ‘thing’ in children’s literature: he ploughs his own furrow. He has penned ghost stories that quite literally terrify (Christmas Dinner of Souls), explored the relationship between an extra-terrestrial and human child (Perijee and Me) and created a Swiftian world of satire set in a caretaker’s cupboard (Max and the Millions). He is a true original and has the knack of a born storyteller.

In his latest, The Midnight Guardians, we are thrown immediately (almost disconcertingly quickly) into an adventure alongside a boy evacuated from London, a Jewish girl disorientated by her experiences of the Kindertransport, and three bizarrely contrasted ‘guardians’ – a waistcoat-wearing badger, a quixotic knight-errant and a shape-shifting Bengal tiger. Whilst The Blitz portends potential global catastrophe, Col, Ruth, and the ‘Midnight Guardians’ undergo a journey of danger across the English countryside to save Col’s sister.

There are shades of The Box of Delights in its Christmas-cosy-deadly-danger atmosphere throughout, although Montgomery goes one step further than Masefield; while he may bring in the characters of folklore, we always feel we are on unstable ground as though the fantasy might fall to pieces at any moment and launch us headlong, irreversibly, into the terrors of war and real life. Montgomery never shies from the sharpness of bald truth, and for this, he is an author-for-children who should be highly regarded: no sugar-coated endings here (or elsewhere, for that matter), just honesty.

So this is not the usual ‘fantasy’ book that kids might read. It plays around the thin lines drawn between a child’s innocent, imaginative world, the darkness of reality, and of growing up too soon. Woven through the book (and forming an important part of the theme of Magic in the book) are warped, almost hallucinatory, visions of English folklore that desperately scrabble for foothold while the horrific shadows of war threaten to snuff them out forever: even the Faery world (a place renowned for its danger and disguise) struggles to win out against the darkness. As the narrative veers from real-life wartime scenes to bizarre escapades with Will-o-the-wisps and shadowy Winter Kings, and then back again, we are party to the juxtaposition of the two worlds; we see through a child’s eyes again; illusion and disillusion take turns to confuse, disarm and surprise.

The clincher for me lies in a near the end of the book where the origins of the three guardians are revealed: this scene, a deeply moving one, shows how Montgomery quite naturally ‘gets’ the sensitivity, toughness, vulnerability and strength of children. And although he loves magic and the freedom that fantasy can afford, it is never used in any lazy or careless way. Rather, The Midnight Guardians is a book that will comfort and challenge readers of Year 5 up and perhaps help them to make some sense of the nether-lands between child and adolescent. It is a book that will at first be read for the swashbuckling adventure, but its truth will haunt the memory long, long after the final page is turned.

I'm a primary school teacher in Essex and completely love reading and books of all kinds. In my spare time, when not reading, I like to compose music...and occasionally attempt to bring some order to the tottering piles of books lurking around my house.