I initially had a hard time getting into the groove of the story mainly because the parent side of me was screaming ‘Don’t take your child on a dangerous mission when there’s a villain who wants to destroy you!’
But Arky’s passion for quests in this book makes sense given the kind of parents he has – a mum who loves climbing difficult mountains and an explorer dad.
In Guardian of the Tomb, Arky and his father are off to Mongolia searching for the lost treasure of Genghis Khan. They are joined by Bear, a spoiled rich kid who really just needs good parental attention, and Tue, a local kid from Mongolia who found the coin that started the adventure.
I love that Arky isn’t afraid to admit he’s afraid. It’s a sign of true bravery. His curiosity leads him and his friends to many complicated situations (sabotage, accidents, near drowning, kidnapping, and a close call with hypothermia – seriously, how can a parent read this book without having a heart attack?). But despite the pressures, Arky thrives and manages to use his smarts to get out of danger.
And the group does get into a lot of danger from the get-go.
The other characters in the story are quite interesting as well. Bear starts off like any other rich kid – device-addicted and wanting posh surroundings. But he slowly matures to become a responsible young boy who we actually pity for not having attentive parents.
Tue, on the other hand, is the opposite of Bear and a good second hero for the book. He is brave and helpful, always thinking about how he could help his family. All together, they make an unlikely team – but it works.
The nemesis in the series is a wealthy man named Goran Rulec who wants all the treasure for himself so he can put it in glass and admire it in his special little room. It seems unfair to pit a 12-year-old boy against an adult gazillionaire with bottomless resources. But that’s what makes Arky’s triumphs so special. It’s the proverbial David and Goliath story, but with treasure and lots of action.
Arky Steele: Guardian of the Tomb is a riveting start to the series. I would recommend it to middle graders looking for adventure. As for the parents, try to get over your protective instincts before reading this one!