The Guardians, Vol. 1: Baltimore, 1862


Loved it! 😍

This is an enjoyable, fast-paced read, and even if this period of history is not to your usual tastes, you’ll still find plenty to enjoy.

 “Then it was so! Death, life; all a shroud covering something unknown to most but all too real.”

– Kevin L. Williams, The Guardians, Vol. 1: Baltimore, 1862

I’ve talked about this numerous times on my social media accounts, but besides horror, the main other genre that appeals to me is westerns. I love films and novels set against the backdrop of the ‘Old West’, and will ravenously consume any media that fits that bill. I mention this, as my interest in this historical setting also extends to the American Civil War. It is during this chaotic and tumultuous period of US history that Kevin L. Williams’ The Guardians Vol. 1: Baltimore, 1862 is set.

The Guardians drops the reader right into the action, beginning with one of its trio of lead characters, ex-physician Artemis Strapp, coming toe to toe with a vengeful vampire. I thought this was a superb way to open the narrative, as it instantly snatched my attention. From here, the story rewinds back several months to the beginning of the events that led up to this life or death situation, then continues on from there.

The narrative is written in an epistolary format all the way through, which may not be to everyone’s tastes, but for the most part I think it worked quite well. Obviously this draws parallels to Bram Stoker’s Dracula right off the bat (excuse the pun), which I imagine was a conscious decision on Williams’ part, given the similar bloodsucking creatures that haunt the dark streets of this story.

As mentioned earlier, there are three main characters: Artemis Strapp, a former physician with a keen interest in the other-worldly, Lucius Williamson, a black lawyer with ‘The Gift’, an ability that inclines him to supernatural matters, and Mare Adams, a strong-willed and business-minded owner of a brothel operating in the city. Each of these characters have quite unique personalities and distinct voices when the narrative focus switches to them.

Williams did an excellent job of capturing the period in which the book was set, too. He managed to skilfully find the perfect balance between the setting feeling genuine, but not getting bogged down in details, and the choice of language and dialogue maintained this authenticity whilst still being accessible to read.

Given the time period, and the ethnicity and genders of certain characters in the story, both racism, sexism and gender dynamics play a role in The Guardians. All of these subjects can be quite difficult to approach tactfully, but Williams does so well. They factor into the narrative, the historical backdrop, and the relationships between the three leads, adding another layer to the book. I felt that it was Williams’ willingness to confront these issues head-on that set this story a cut above the standard vampire fare – which, let’s be honest, is a horror sub-genre that has been drained bone-dry over the years.

I was a little worried that maybe The Guardians would skimp on the violence and horror elements of the narrative, but was actually pleasantly surprised (if that is the right term to use when describing blood and guts) by some of the more gruesome instances of its plot-line. The main antagonist was pretty compelling overall, and had a number of creepy moments and scenes throughout.

All things considered this is an enjoyable, fast-paced read, and even if this period of history is not to your usual tastes, I think you’ll still find plenty to enjoy here. The trio of leads are all interesting and engaging in their own ways, and the relationships between them and the supporting cast of characters are developed well. Williams does a terrific job at capturing the historical setting without becoming too hung up on the intricacies, and his language is very readable.

VERDICT: I really enjoyed The Guardians, I felt that it was a lot of fun and very easy to get into and devour. The epistolary format may not be to every reader’s tastes, but overall this is a solid and well-written book – and one that thankfully manages to stand out in an over-saturated sub-genre by imbuing the story with smart social commentary and an original setting. This is also the first entry into a planned series, and I’d personally be more than happy to return to this world and its characters.

It’s a very strong ⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ from this reviewer.

Reviewed by

I am an avid reader and an enthusiast of the horror genre, and have recently turned my attention to writing stories of my own. At Night Terror Novels, I strive to provide fresh horror, mystery and thriller reviews of all forms and flavours.

About the author

Hi! I am a life-long reader and relatively new author from San Antonio, Tx. I love all kinds of reading: comics, graphic novels, and of course novels; mostly in the Horror, Sci-Fi, and Adventure genres. view profile

Published on October 12, 2020

70000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Horror

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