Defenders of the Land of Dreams: Custodians of the Golden Armor is an enchanting children’s story about amazing things and about being amazed, and the reader can be assured to dive into a fantastical world and be completely immersed in a magical atmosphere upon reading it. Most importantly, this book deals with a rather interesting theme, something which is not discussed as widely as one would expect to find within this literary genre: family bonds.
In fact, the plot recounts the story of a family, spending quite a bit of time in the characterization of each member, as all of them together join forces to fight a common enemy, who is none other than the archetypical wicked witch who torments the heroes of every reasonable classical fairy-tale. Since Snow White (and perhaps even before her), the children-readers have learnt to fear such bitter, vengeful characters, who often carefully prepare their soon-to-come revenge in the darkness of their caves, far away from the light and the nobility of the virtuous kingdoms inhabited by our main characters.
Indeed, this is the case with this story too, which exploits and adapts all the conventions of the fairy-tale genre in an exquisite way, thus building a children’s story based on the canon of children stories par excellence. This is worthy of praise because nowadays children’s stories seem to take too much of an “adult” take, unfortunately, and even the messages they want to convey are not explained in the best way as regards to being accessible to children. Hence, it is good to finally see a children’s story that de facto employs a children’s genre in order to do so (namely, the fairy-tale, since fairy-tales were created specifically with the purpose to instruct infants in a delightful and less overtly political way). Certainly, children need to be educated on what happens in the world around them without losing touch with reality but, at the same time, they are just children! They want to wonder at things, to imagine, to dream, and this tale was truly a breath of fresh air in this regard, finally something that children could be genuinely interested in.
On the other hand, I feel like the moral of this story does not shine through ultimately, and despite the language is very rich in vocabulary, still it does not express the significance of the (quite) hidden message in the most suitable way. It almost seems like the morale is reversed at the end (especially in the final page) and there is truly no edification, no rebirth, no improvement, as the kingdom pretty much comes back to how it was at the beginning of the story, before the events of the story itself unfolded, as if nothing ever happened in the first place. There is no real change or lesson to be learned, neither on the main characters’ side nor on the antagonist’s side. The heroes go back to how they were before, to their peaceful life, becoming even nobler and even more adored, and the witch too goes back to how she was before, only more defeated. This lessens the general “instructive” quality of this book, but on the flip side it gives more to the entertaining side: this is not necessarily a bad thing, it just depends on what kind of book a parent wants their children to read, I reckon I would recommend this one to keep on the playful side rather than the educational side.
The illustrations are beautiful and match the narration perfectly, I also really appreciated the precious golden frames on each page which contribute to an overall adorned and refined appearance, making this book seem like an ancient manuscript or a magical book of spells, as if written by Merlin himself. The font, too, is rather nice and aesthetically matches both the content and the drawings themselves, contributing to an overall impression of uniqueness.
In short, Defenders of the Land of Dreams: Custodians of the Golden Armor is a captivating book that will keep your children spell-bound until the end, I would recommend this to younger children in particular due to the magical elements but I believe it suitable for primary school children up until the age of ten as well. This book is the first of a series, apparently, and I will be sure to keep up with the other mythical adventures to come!
I am in the senior sophister year of my BA in English Literature and Classics, writing a thesis on John Keats’ poetry and 19th-century Victorian literature. I majored in English and I am specialized in reviewing children's books and classics. Tips for my work are greatly appreciated!