GUSSY by Jimmy Cajoleas

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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

Gussy knows never to open the gates after dark. It’s one of the first things she learned from Grandpa Widow when he trained her as a Protector: if you open the gates after the sun sets and the rites have been performed, the Great Doom could slip inside. But there’s a girl outside in the desert, and if Gussy leaves her out there in the middle of the hailstorm, she’ll be dead before morning. Gussy wishes Grandpa Widow hadn’t left, leaving these difficult decisions up to her. But then, there’s really only one choice. Gussy opens the gate.

At first, it seems like things are going well. There’s no sign of the Great Doom, and although the girl is a little odd–and determined to practice strange magic in Gussy’s house. But the mayor is acting oddly, and strange people are sneaking around in the dark. And when the first sinister signs of the Great Doom appear, Gussy will have to embrace her role as Protector and save the villagers–whether they want her to or not.

This charming story is both grounded and transportive, told through the quirky, confident voice of Gussy herself and set in a desert community where rituals and faith that would not be out of place in our world blend with the magic of the fantasy. Though the magic system itself isn’t revolutionary, the way it fits into the rich, unique world- and character-building makes it feel truly inventive. This novel is a wonderful choice for middle grade readers who love to be immersed in a fantasy world with characters they’d love to hang out with.

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