Guardians of Porthaven, by Shane Arbuthnott

I very much enjoyed Shane Arbuthnott's first two middle grade books, Dominion, and Terra Nova, starring a brilliant girl who challenges the corporate greed of her society, realizing her ancestors did bad things and working to undo them.  I finished the books wanting more of the characters and their fascinating world.  But although this is not yet to be, I happily dove into Arbuthnott's new Guardians of Porthaven, and found it very good as well, hitting many of the same thematic points just as well (smashing corporate greed and undoing your family's morally bankrupt choices!)

Malcolm Gravenhurst was born into a powerful family; they have been the Guardians of Porthaven ever since aliens began to portal through to this one particular city on Earth.  The Gravenhursts are able to destroy the aliens minions, the robotic klek, thanks to superpowers that they acquired when the gate to Earth was opened.  And this has made them the incredibly wealth and fame, making them de facto absolute monarchs of Porthaven. 

The book begins with Malcolm turning fifteen, the age at which he can use his own powers to help keep the city safe.  He dreams of helping the citizens of Porthaven, not just dispatching of the klek on days they come through the gate, but along the lines of the superheros in the comic books he loves--keeping watch against more ordinary nefariousness.  So he sets off into the night alone....and his world gets upended when he meets three teens who also have powers, who use them for the common good; and these teens had friends who were disappeared when their powers became known to the Gravenhursts. 

Malcolm's belief in the heroic goodness of his family begins to crack, and through those cracks he and his new friends begin to understand the deep rot behind the operation the Gravenhursts are running.

(spoiler alert)

Turns out their powers and wealth actually come from the aliens....and in Malcolm's grandfather's mind, that's worth keeping a gate to hostile aliens open.

Malcolm and his friends disagree, and are proven all too right when the aliens come for real.

(end spoilery bit)

The sci fi plot is full of excitement--there's the interest in uncovering the mystery of the alien gateway combined with lots of action-packed alien fighting.  Supporting and strengthening this is the more character-driven story of a privileged boy recognizing that privilege, and the harm it's done, and trying to do better.  He has to learn, for instance, that now he is part of a small group of rebels he can't just go off making decisions that seem reasonable to him, from his place in the ruling family, because he lacks to context to understand the bigger consequences.  It takes a few times of screwing things up for the group before he learns his lesson, but he does learn it, and tries to do better. 

Malcolm is white, but the 3 rebel kids are more diverse--two have dark skin, and one's name seems Asian.  The two girls in the group are in a relationship.

In short, there are many reasons why I highly recommend it to readers on the upper end of middle grade and into YA (11-14 year olds), particularly to superhero comic book fans, and to young sci-fi fans who are setting themselves up to work on the side of social justice.

Just checked the Kirkus review, and we are in complete agreement, so good job, Kirkus.

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