Legends of Lotus Island: The Guardian Test is the first installment in a new series by Christina Soontornvat. In this fantasy series targeted for middle grade readers, Soontornvat introduces a cast of characters with Plum as the protagonist and creates a mysterious setting called Lotus Island.
Because a storm capsized her parents’ boat on the open sea, Plum is an orphan living with her grandparents. Gardening, talking to the worms, fox bats, and other creatures while also taking care of Tansy the goat consume Plum’s days. However, her grandparents are afraid they are holding Plum back from something more significant. Without consulting Plum, Grandpa completes an application for Plum to attend Guardian Academy. “For centuries, the Guardians have fulfilled their ancient duty to protect and nurture life in the Santipap Islands” (6).
At first, Plum is angry, doubtful, and hesitant to leave her grandparents. Despite Plum’s misgivings, she agrees to go to Lotus Island to discover what her mother dreamed for her, according to her grandmother. At Guardian Academy, the Masters teach those who have a spark of power how to use it. Those who learn the lessons of patience, leverage, balance, and discipline will progress to become a Heart, Breath, or Hand Guardian with the power to transform into a Guardian form.
Plum’s days at the Academy are filled with both challenges and pleasures. She finds a friend in Cherry, an outgoing and high energy girl, and with Sam Ubon, Plum works in the garden. However, Plum is bullied by Rella—one of the more aggressive and arrogant girls at the school—and struggles to quiet her mind and find her true calling, despite her efforts. If Plum can’t develop the ability to transform into her Guardian form, she fears she won’t advance to Novice level to continue her training but will be forced to return to her grandparents as a failure.
Soontornvat skillfully crafts her characters, especially as she reveals the struggle for confidence and self-worth so often experienced in tweens. With the lotus blossom symbolism, readers will discover greater depth into Plum’s resilience, strength, and rebirth.
- Posted by Donna