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In the companion novel to Ann Aguirre’s bestselling Razorland Trilogy, a year has passed since the legendary War on the River. After the excitement of being the medic for Company D, Tegan has contunued training under Dr. Wilson, but she dreams of something more. When the chance arises for Tegan to travel the seas as a ship’s doctor, she jumps at the chance to see the world, and continue the adventure life has for her. Joining her on the ship is Millie, the girl whose kindness saved the world, and James Morrow, the storyteller from Company D who would follow Tegan anywhere.

While the war is over, the peace between the Uroch and the humans is tense. As both peoples try to overcome the long-instilled fear of the other, Szarok, the Uroch vanguard, accompaies the crew with Tegan, Millie, and Morrow in search of a better land for his people. As they both journey farther than they have ever before, Tegan and Szarok begin to understand themselves more, and realize that maybe they aren’t so different after all.

"VANGUARD takes a fascinating look at a world recovering from war....Although it seems impossible, Ann Aguirre shows readers that two completely different people...can begin to understand the other if they simply take the chance.... "

VANGUARD takes a fascinating look at a world recovering from war, and the humans and Uroch attempting to overcome the prejudices they have deep inside of them for the others. Although it seems impossible, Ann Aguirre shows readers that two completely different people, who even fear each other, can begin to understand the other if they simply take the chance to learn. Throughout the novel, she switches perspective, and even writes from Szarok’s point of view. It’s fascinating to read as someone who is not human, but still has coherent thought. He is so different, from his physical capabilities to his traditions and perceptions of the world, yet still experiences those basic emotions that connects all people.

Tegan is such a strong character, but not in the conventional way we so often see. In the Razorland Trilogy, Deuce is a fierce huntress, whose strength is in her ability to fight. In contrast, Tegan is not a warrior, but a healer. She chooses to survive against anything life throws at her without breaking. She is not a sweet innocent girl, but is always there to listen, and is capable of healing hearts along with bodies. These qualities all make a refreshingly unique character that I can’t get enough of reading about.

Ann Aguirre has a special talent for making ordinary things quite special. Being an Uroch, Szarok is not accustomed to the seemingly simple actions in our everyday life. When Tegan explains it, it adds a little magic to things I normally would not have given a second thought. Similarly, Ann Aguirre writes from Morrow’s perspective. We glimpse the world from a storytellers view, and in it I saw a little of the mind of every writer and reader in the world.

As Tegan and Szarok travel, they face strange worlds and terrifying seas, as they fight the battle of surviving nature. Together, they must make their peoples overcome the fear that comes when one doesn’t understand another, by sharing the truth that under the claws and guns, the Uroch and humans are more alike than they could imagine.

Reviewed by Caitlyn K., Teen Board Member on August 16, 2017

(Razorland #4)
by Ann Aguirre