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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Megan J. Wheless's Guardians of the Keys is a contemporary fantasy novel with magic and mystery at its heart. Elaine Colemar is the head librarian in her Midwest hometown of Brightonville. She was in kindergarten when her parents died in a car accident. Her great-aunts, Daphne and Mildred, became her guardians. Now her beloved great-aunts are dead, killed in a recent car accident. Elaine inherits their shop, The Cooley Sisters’ Antiques & Collectibles store, with first-edition books, and jewelry. Elaine recalls how Daphne and Mildred fired up her imagination with tales about their collectibles. In the shop, Elaine finds a brass key with an intricately designed head with an emerald gemstone. When Elaine holds the key, the emerald glows, and the key heats up. She discovers there are other keys, with a link to an ancient Apothecary's Guild. The antique store is heavily in debt. The action and tension pick up when Elaine decides to sell the emerald key to Professor Edmund Wallace, the director of a local history museum.
I was captivated by Megan J. Wheless's Guardians of the Keys with its unique characters and the highly imaginative worldbuilding of jeweled keys and mystical places. I liked how Elaine rediscovers the enchantment of magic and mysteries. I think the narrative and dialogues expressed Elaine's inner journey very well as she struggles to unravel a complex web of secrets. She accepts her responsibility to protect her family's heritage and links to an ancient Apothecary's Guild. I loved how the backstories of Aunt Daphne and Aunt Mildred bring to life their adventures, curiosity, and courage. The story gained a great deal of depth when Elaine's longtime best friend, Grant, becomes part of the search for clues to the puzzle of the keys. I loved how the secrets of the keys and the Guild are revealed through the unique characters of Adele, Florence, Hugh, Vivienne, and Teddy. Guardians of the Keys is a delightful fantasy with intrigue, magic, mystery, and romance!