Image taken from goodreads. Do hover your cursor over the blacked-out phrases, if you have read both Proxy and Guardian or do not mind spoilers ;).
Alex London's Proxy is one of the few books I've ever loved that much. It was shocking and amazing, heartwarming and heartbreaking. I found myself immersed in the debt and in the injustice, in the characters' journeys and in the amazing plot -- which involves a zoo and a canyon. When I closed my hardcover copy, nursing a broken heart and basking in the warmth of hope and friendship, I knew I would -- without doubt -- read Guardian. The only thing standing between me and this interesting sequel, back then, was the fact that it hadn't yet been published.
A couple of months later, Guardian was published. My friend Commander LilaJune (check out her review here) and I got our hands on it within the first few days of publication. We got completely hooked, and finished it in one day (well, she finished it first, and I stayed up all night reading to catch up because I have a severe case of 'fear of missing out'). Tons (alright, exaggeration alert) of Twitter DM-s were sent, and thoughts and feels were discussed -- and we agreed on a fact I think is important:
... Whilst Proxy is a breakneck thriller, Guardian is a romance (I think Sofia, who first introduced me to Proxy, kind of agreed with this, too).
Yes, there is still action (lots of them, to be exact). Yes, there are deaths, cruel plot twists, moments of self realizations and self doubts, and all the things present in Proxy (although, compared to what happened in Proxy, what happens in Guardian feels mild). But the heart of the story itself was the budding romance between our beloved former-whipping-boy-turned-'messiah' Syd, and the main newcomer in the book, the terrifying, glitched (oh, don't you just love it when authors develop their own slangs for their books? ;)), yet somehow sweet bodyguard Liam.
Liam is a bodyguard boy with mysterious past, one metal hand, perpetually wet 'puppy' eyes, insane killer instinct, and a somewhat-glitched devotion to his responsibility, Yovel (who was known by Syd, and would rather be called Syd). Liam has a Yovel tattoo on his chest (which will come in handy in a sticky situation later ;)), and spends a lot of time running after/having hots for/thinking about his Yovel. While at first this idol-crush looks a little silly and a little scary, it gradually evolves to a substantial, healthy attraction/affection as Liam learns more about the person under that 'Yovel' label. Although romance is not usually my main genre, I found myself enthralled by the Guardian romance, captivated by Liam's development and inner struggles; Syd's anguish and desire to keep his sense of self; and the sweet thing they share together. I think I would safely say that Guardian is high up on my 'romance' favourite list.
Like other well-done protagonists are, Liam and Syd don't exist in a vacuum. There are other characters, ones which help them most of the time, and ones which serve as antagonists. Among those characters is Marie, a recurring character from Proxy who brings along with her the topics of idealism versus reality, and family. And among the antagonists is a six-year-old gang lord (don't ask me why!!!) who highlights problems with the society and the delusion/thirst for power, as well as provides a comic relief in an otherwise very-much-screwed-up situation. Some characters die; some others stay on. Whilst there is no clear resolution of the fates of all the characters who remained alive at the end of the Guardian (after the adventures and the cruel big twist which started in Proxy), I would say almost everyone learns their different lessons throughout the book. They are forced to examine their stances and beliefs, with the collapse of their society and the looming threat before them. They are forced to work together. They are forced to start anew. And they make a network of beautiful stories, that the lack of absolute resolution did not at all bother me.
There are several questions I still had, after I flipped that last page and turned my e-reader off. What had actually happened to Liam before the book -- before he was a soldier for the rebellion movement. What was the main antagonist's story, and what drove him to do all the things he did (there were serious moments where I questioned his choices and motivations, especially towards the plot climax). What was the thing London actually wanted to achieve with his conflict arc and the cruel, twisty resolution. What would be the future of the world. But until clarified by Alex London, all of those are mysteries -- mysteries I'll let be for the time being, as I remember this book as one of my favourite romance reads.
Although... well... really... a third book or a Liam-novella won't really hurt ;).
Final rating: 4 Stars.