**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**
Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris.
Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all
juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense
physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and
become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top
students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But
they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year,
when they plan to join the CIA—together.
But when the graduates
are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the
first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime:
to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and
travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to
become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say
good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever.
Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life? (source:goodreads)
Narrative-This book is told from the first person POV in the perspective of Amanda Obermann (code name: Iris, of course; warning: I might switch between both names). The voice itself is fairly simple, and extremely relatable (not for the first time: I'm calling "relatable" a word, okay?); she's a teenager in the best sense, and I appreciated her thought processes as she's thrust into this world of time-travel and government conspiracies. It was fabulous, Amanda/Iris was funny, and I loved every page I spent with her thanks to her sarcasm and blunt feelings toward everybody she meets.
Plot-Here's the thing: badass teenage spies, spy schools, secret government agencies? They're not really a new thing. What was new (to me) was adding time travel into the mix, and considering that the effects and consequences of time travel are downright intriguing, McCardle had me hooked. Besides, for somebody who loves history, it was absolutely fantastic the amount of research McCardle must have done to make all of the historical backdrops come to life, and even to simply re-imagine them (because in this world, JFK's assassination was bought and paid for by someone in the present).
Okay, ya'll caught me: I just really needed to gush and get that out of my system.
But, really: I loved the way this idea was handled, right down to the fact that things don't make sense from the moment that Amanda/Iris arrives at the Annum Guard. There's a motto, "Enhancement, Not Alteration," that's nailed up, and Amanda/Iris (plus me, the reader) basically spent the entire book going, "Um, there's no difference?" And, yes, that question mark is needed.
After spending some time at the Annum Guard and finally becoming official, there's the sudden blow that officially alerts Amanda/Iris to something incredibly wrong: she's supposed to go back in time, persuade the creator of the time-turning watches to change their design, and if he doesn't comply: kill him. And then, all hell breaks loose and it's a literal race through time for Amanda/Iris to find the truth and prove that she's not an enemy.
And because of that race through time, I say again: lots of awesome historical research must have gone into this; everything was extremely vivid.
It's intense, guys. Occasionally heart-stopping, head-turning, and suspenseful.
Characters-My biggest regret with this book is that there's quite a number of interesting characters, but we don't actually get to spend that much time with some of them.
Amanda/Iris is, of course, the character we get the most of: she's intense, she likes to think she knows what she's doing, and, in all honestly, it's obvious that much of her attention is pre-occupied with her own life (as later pointed out by the fashionably fantastic Yellow, who I wanted to high-five at the time).
Here's the fun part. Amanda's teammates are: Yellow, Blue, Red, Green, Indigo, Orange (who, as Amanda/Iris points out, unfortunately has the hair to match his name) and Violet. If I'm being completely honest, I was extremely confused at first, but trying to keep them straight became remarkably easy after a few chapters, with some standing out more than others (Like Yellow and Indigo, and Blue only because Amanda/Iris actually knows his real name). All in all, I was impressed with the way McCardle was able to handle such a wide range of characters: their personalities were all unique, and in the long run nobody sounded just like anyone else. Even more fantastic: not all of them are stone-faced under pressure. Violet surprised me with actually getting nervous and fearful during a mission, and I appreciated the wide range of reactions that the characters had under different circumstances. In the end (after they were done hunting and shooting at each other, of course), they all kind of felt like a family.
Alpha and Zeta are the team's "bosses" of sorts: they oversee everything. Zeta trains Amanda/Iris, and Alpha coordinates many of the missions. Zeta comes across as the more, well, rude and mean of the two, and Alpha is somewhat more fatherly. Now the question: could either of them be wrapped up in this conspiracy?
That's for me to know, and for you to find out, now, isn't it?
Like I said: my biggest wish is that I could have spent more time with some of the characters; since there were so many in Amanda/Iris's team, and two of them are about ten years older than everyone else, there's some that you simply don't get to interact with. Which makes sense, but given how great Yellow (so controlling and fabulous and I love her, okay?) and Indigo (he's just weird, and the entire book I was trying to figure out his intentions toward Amanda/Iris; he's like the big brother I never had), for example, were, it would have been absolutely lovely to see some of them in more action.
This is one of those books that I found myself extremely lucky to get to read. It was all thanks to Meredith McCardle, herself, that I got a copy of both THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN and its sequel BLACKOUT (just out on January 13, 2015) during a random Twitter contest, and I was so pleased with these books (read them both in a week; stay tuned for the review of BLACKOUT). All I can say is: if you love history, secret government agencies, and an awesome lead character, then you've got to pick up this book!
Final Answer: 4.33 / 5 stars
Enhancement, Not Alteration. THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN @MeredithMcP. Read the review via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)
A fan of YA time-traveling thrillers? Blogger @Rae_Slater reviews THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN @MeredithMcP. Check it out! (Click to Tweet)