Scotland’s Guardians by Katharina Gerlach

Scotland's Guardians by Katharina GerlachAlthough Gerlach has written this novel for the young adult market, it does not have the simplified plot and self-absorbed characters of many YA titles. This makes the book equally engaging for fans of straight fantasy.

For as long as she can remember, Bryanna has been raised by her father, a cryptozoologist. When she was young the myths and legends of Scotland fueled her imagination. But now she is growing up they are tinged with embarrassment that her father seeks evidence they are true. However, when a mysterious woman brings vague memories of the past but takes her father away, Bryanna finds what she thought were imaginary friends might be both real and dangerous.

Unlike some YA fantasy, this book does not transition straight from belief only in mundane life to acceptance of a magical quest; a series of plausible events conspire to prevent Bryanna from simply reporting her father’s disappearance to the Police, while drawing her deeper into the hidden world. Paired with accessible and fast-flowing prose, this slow build allows the more-grounded reader to maintain suspension of disbelief as her direct investment grows.

Bryanna is a well-rounded character, displaying a mix of intelligence and naiveté that feels right for someone of her age. Gerlach applies the same believable progression to her growth as she uses to draw the reader into the plot, making Bryanna exceptional enough that her victories over magical obstacles are realistic without damaging the reader’s ability to identify with her.

Kaylee, a girl who befriends Bryanna early in the story and with whom Bryanna spends most of her quest, is similarly introduced and developed as a real person, forced to grow more quickly by unusual challenges but still caught between child and adult.

Conversely, the majority of adult characters are quite static. However, as they are also mostly either not human or have lives vastly extended by magic, this serves to emphasise the impact of Bryanna’s actions rather than reduce their plausibility. In addition, each appearance reveals little quirks of character, adding depth to what start as archetypes.

Although the book can be read simply as a dramatic quest to rescue Bryanna’s father, it also raises deeper questions about the meaning of family and friendship which will resonate with any reader wondering about their place in the world.

I enjoyed this novel; however, I am far enough from the target market that I sympathised rather than empathised with the characters, so am unlikely to reread it for some time. I recommend it both to readers looking for a well-written YA story and fantasy lovers looking for a solid plot that does not need both hands and a glossary to enjoy.

12 thoughts on “Scotland’s Guardians by Katharina Gerlach

        1. Hi Katharina,

          Are you a far relative of de or De Gerlache if I remember well, the owners of Belgica, the Belgian ship that researches the radioactivity in the North Sea?

          Sorry I don’t frequent youthful people anymore and further I’m a hobbyist writer, but I never wrote for children and think I wouldn’t dare.


          1. Not that I’m aware off, but there aren’t all that many people with that name around in Northern Germany, so it might be a very, very distant relation. I’m not a genealogist so I can’t really tell. I know that one of my ancestors several generations back used to be a noble (and de/De Gerlach hints at that) but I never followed up on that old family story.


            1. Why do you talk about Northern Germany? Here below the link to his story. Baron Adrien Victor Joseph de Gerlache de Gomery is just a Belgian. I did all that stuff already for a government examination to work on the Belgica ship. I was sent home by someone of the surveillance because my certificate was not exactly what they asked. (Couldn’t they warn me from beforehand)


              1. Well, I’m from Northern Germany and I know that most of my relations used to come from (now) Poland. But they used to be Von Gerlach which is basically the same as de Gerlach. Still, without genealogical research I’m not likely to proof that I’m related.


                    1. I suppose you know better than who else in the world who your ancestors are. Recently I heard even Angie is a noble. A lot of new nobility in Germany thus. Well, keep your head cool between all that fake!


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