Guardians: Wylah The Koorie Warrior 1 and Custodians: Wylah The Koorie Warrior 2
By Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard
Reviewed by Sophia Evans
Guardians: Wylah The Koorie Warrior 1 is a fantasy-adventure story inspired by First Nations history. It is a bit hard to classify as it attempts to merge fantasy, adventure, action, alternate history, and drama.
The book begins with the main character Wylah (pronounced Wheel-La) waking up. It is her first day as an art teacher for the young ones of her village and she wants to do her grandmother proud. Set 40,000 years ago, Wylah goes about her daily jobs before heading to the cave for her first lesson. We learn about the megafauna (giant animals) that are Wylah’s friends, as well as some Aboriginal words which are woven throughout the story.
While Wylah is teaching Po how to make ochre, the cave collapses. They make their way out and return to the village to find it absolutely destroyed. Wylah finds her grandmother trapped under a fallen tree and Grandmother explains that everyone was taken, by dragons.
Wylah embarks on a quest to find the Guardians, save the animals, and rescue her people; a quest to become the Koorie Warrior. She doubts her own abilities but finds Pippy, her first Guardian, fairly quickly, and they set off to find the others. Skirmishes and battles ensue as Wylah attempts to find all of the Guardians. She slowly learns about dragons, the Guardians and the other megafauna roaming the land.
A parallel story (told on grey pages rather than white) follows the captivity of the animals and people stolen from Wylah’s village. Wylah’s family and friends are held by the Dragon Army, an army who are trying to steal something from the people.
Some sections overuse figurative language or emotions to show the story but, overall, it is non-stop adventure and action. Book 1 does not end, so I’m glad I had the second book to continue with.
Custodians: Wylah The Koorie Warrior 2 continues this celebration of Aboriginal culture exactly where book 1 finished; Wylah has united the five Guardians and now must continue her quest to save her people and the animals.
In Custodians we meet Jayden, who helped Merri escape from the Dragon Army. Merri and Jayden find Wylah and the Guardians. Wylah is initially suspicious of Jayden but over the next few battles and adventures, he earns her trust. Wylah learns how to use the five totems – boomerang, axe, shield, club, spear – each with special abilities that she needs to defeat the Dragon Army.
I really enjoyed the battle between Tulna (the megafauna marsupial Guardian helping Wylah) and a group of oversized drop bears. The battle relies on butt power as they each attempt to butt their opponents. It’s partly humorous and partly action-packed.
Both books include a large number of named characters which does become hard to follow as the story progresses, especially with the shift from the main story (from Wylah’s point of view) and the parallel storylines (following the villagers and the Dragon Army). There is a glossary in the back but this gives the definition for their names rather that who the character is.
Illustrations by Richard Pritchard are generously smattered throughout both books, and add detail, emotion, and action to the story. Richard brings the story to life with his representations of dragons, megafauna and place.
These books will be enjoyed by 8–14-year-olds who like action, adventure, epic battles, megafauna, dragons, or learning about some aspects of life 40,000 years ago.