Guardian (The Unworthy Hero)

Posted July 23, 2014 by Sam Liggett in Nerdy Bits

Clocking in at a compact 95 pages on Kindle and 200 pages in the physical copy, Guardian (The Unworthy Hero) is Robert Steltenpohl’s inaugural novel and the first in what is sure to be an excellent trilogy. It is the tale of a young Atlanta man, Dr. Landon Stokes, whose world is turned inside out after a chance encounter with an emergency room patient who has an unusual tattoo to go with his unusual wounds. The patient, near death and seemingly a hopeless case, bestows Landon with an extraordinary set of supernatural powers and an unbelievable burden. In a flash, the young doctor becomes aware of the emotions of everyone around him, and is able to influence others to feel joy, an ability that comes in handy in a hospital. Suddenly, this young doctor is thrust into an invisible war set against the backdrop of modern-day Atlanta, a war that intertwines with his everyday life.  Conflicts with Olivia, his fiancée, and Tim, a fellow doctor and rival within the hospital intersect with Landon’s new job as a warrior between angels and powerful foes called Serps, who have the ability to manipulate negative emotions in humans.  As the only human fighting in an angel war, Landon struggles with the moral implications of being called to spread joy, even to those who he dislikes or who he believes deserve to suffer. He wonders often whether he is a hero, a question that haunts him as he struggles to balance the life he knows and loves with a new  (to him) and often confusing battle for the fate of humanity.

The author is a comic book fan, something which bleeds heavily into his writing style. He uses intense visual descriptions to set the scene for fast-paced action interspersed with sometimes cheesy dialogue and overlaid with Landon’s omnipresent inner monologue. This look into the main protagonist’s head allow for a greater connection with Landon than with any other character. Some characters, like Olivia and Tim, become a little two-dimensional in spots because the reader only sees them through Landon’s eyes. Other characters take on unexpected new life based upon their description and the fact that they are emotion incarnate. Serps such as Anger and Fear are powerful villains, demons who battle ferociously, but operate differently when not fighting based on the trait they represent.  Fear is described as an “emo knockoff” and acts with a complete lack of fear and an incredible amount of arrogance while Anger is a muscle-bound armored warrior who uses his own rage to ramp up his fights.  Hope, an angel, operates much more like Anger by using her emotional influence to enhance her battles as do the rest of the angels.

Novels that cause deep introspection seem to be relatively rare, and I have never encountered a book that addresses the power of human emotions in a way that was still accessible and fun as Guardian has.  The author’s ability to present a tight, coherent, and entertaining story that leaves the reader considering deeper messages is an impressive accomplishment. Even more striking is his genuine exploration of the concepts of obedience to a higher power and the inner struggle presented by human free will. Landon’s continual grappling with his own rebellious nature is part of what makes him so relatable as a character and what gives readers a vested interest in the outcome of every skirmish

Editorial oversights make the book a little choppy and difficult to read in places, but if you lose yourself in the story, they fade easily into the background. Combined with some light medical jargon, the book could become confusing to some. However, its family friendly language and informal tone make the reader feel as if they are watching a close personal friend undergo a trial by fire and the fast pace of the story lends itself to finishing the entire book in one sitting.  There are also several jarring emotional moments that read as completely genuine, giving a glimpse beyond the book to the author himself.

A thoroughly enjoyable tale of good versus evil, Guardian (The Unworthy Hero) is available now on Amazon in print and for Kindle. It is my very strong suggestion that you take a few hours to read the first book of this trilogy and of what is surely the start of a promising career.

About the Author

Sam Liggett

Sam enjoys books and coffee (preferably in tandem) as well as card and board games. She lives in an attic and watches Pokemon (nearly) every day with her husband and their tiny human.