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Literature / The Guild of Specialists

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The Guild of Specialists trilogy is a series of novels by children's author Joshua Mowll, published by Walker Books, and each one of the three books is an absolute work of art. They are designed to look like diaries and are filled to the absolute brim with maps, diagrams and sketches, some folding out to as much as four or five pages. There are antique photographs (purportedly) of the characters and settings and museum-style photographs of objects that appear in the books. It is truly something to behold and the level of immersion the books create is fantastic.

The premise is thus, after the death of his grandmother, Rebecca MacKenzie, the author discovered a hidden passageway behind a bookcase in her house. This led him down a flight of stairs to a series of vaults (there are colour photographs and diagrams of everything described). After "persuading" one of them to open the author enters it to discover a rich and varied treasury of objects, artefacts, notes, and diaries that tell the story of her life. The three books that follow are that story, and the objects, diagrams, and photos contained therein all come from that secret collection. It's a truly awesome premise that will suck you in hard and suspend your disbelief from the yard-arm.


The series follows the lives of Rebecca and Douglas MacKenzie in their quest to find their parents after they disappeared while on an expedition to the Sinkiang desert in China. The children soon discover that they were members of a secret society known (where it is known) as The Honourable Guild of Specialists.

The books have been widely praised for their elaborate setup and their incredible ability to make you wonder if you might not, somehow, be reading a real account.



  • Applied Phlebotinum: Zoridium. A few grains can do anything from serve as an accelerant in a torpedo to power a machine capable of changing the planet's atmosphere.
  • Bald of Awesome: Master Aa is a bald man and the leader of the Sujing Quantou.
  • Cool Pet: The Dutchess, a great big white tiger trained to kill people who enter the room without knocking. And she belongs to the heroes.
  • Cool Ship: The Expedient. A research ship with a submarine on board and heavily armed to boot with massive disappearing guns, torpedo tubes and a 12-pound machine gun.
  • Direct Line to the Author: And how. The entire setup is that everything in the books are a documentation of real events. It is incredible how well done it is.
  • Force and Finesse: Becca and Doug's preferences in swordsmanship. Becca prefers a rapier, while Doug is much more comfortable with a heavier weapon like a saber.
  • Handicapped Badass: Captain McKenzie has a limp in one leg, but that doesn't stop him from battle.
  • Large and in Charge: Master Aa, the leader of the Sujing Quantou, is even larger than his hulking bodyguard.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Four married couples appear, but nothing more romantic than that ensues.
  • Portmanteau: The gyrolabes were named by combining the words "astrolabe" and "gyroscope".
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: Sheng-Fat and his Tong operate mostly in the South China Sea.
  • Speech Impediment: Posh Charlie has a noticeable one.
  • Stereotype Flip: Becca is quite asocial for an Action Girl, and Doug is quite sociable for a Non-Action Guy.
  • The Triads and the Tongs

Tropes that appear in Operation Red Jericho:

  • Angrish: Inverted with Posh Charlie, whose Speech Impediment disappears whenever he's in danger.
  • Big Bad: Sheng-Fat, who ordered the creation of the zoridium torpedoes that the crew of the Expedient seeks to destroy.
  • Character Tics: Ives mentions that his nose twitches whenever there’s danger ahead.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Xi first appears as a mischief-maker in the Sujing Quantou’s fireworks shop.
  • Fingore: Sheng-Fat likes to collect the pinky fingers of his victims. Enough to have a whole necklace.
  • Follow That Car: Becca and Doug attempt this to follow Julius Pembleton-Crozier, but the rickshaw driver gets too tired and they have to follow him on foot.
  • He Knows Too Much: Julius Pembleton-Crozier murders the captured Sheng-Fat before leaving Wenzi Island.
  • Siblings in Crime: Sheng-Fat and his two brothers Chung-Fat and Li-Fat.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Battle at Wenzi Island ends with Sheng-Fat's fortress being completely vaporized when the zoridium torpedoes are detonated.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Sheng-Fat declines to just stab Chambois. Instead, he decides to try and avenge his brother's death (caused by Chambois) by blowing him up with a zoridium torpedo.
  • You Killed My Father: Sheng-Fat has a grudge against Chambois for sabotaging a torpedo so it blew up the ship that Sheng-Fat's brother was on.

Tropes that appear in Operation Typhoon Shore:

  • Big Bad: Julius Pembleton-Crozier's mining operation is the force that the crew of the Expedient seeks to stop.
  • Cain and Abel: Julius Pembleton-Crozier and Posh Charlie are brothers. Charlie wants to defend the secrets of the Tembla and zoridium, while Julius seeks to make a profit.
  • Given Name Reveal: Posh Charlie's surname is Pembleton-Crozier, making him and Julius Pembleton-Crozier brothers.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Posh Charlie manages to free Captain McKenzie, Becca, Doug and Liberty from the gravitational pull of the gravity machine, but is severely injured from the pressure.
  • Kill 'Em All: Attempted. The Cotiere of Saint Petersburg's gravity machine would cause a vortex that would burrow into the earth's crust, unleashing a volcano that would bury the crew of the Expedient and the Kalaxx in pumice and lava.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Posh Charlie’s translation of Tembla texts allowed the Cotiere of St. Petersburg and the Kalaxx to find the Tembla zoridium mines.
  • Private Military Contractors: The Kalaxx, the disgraced Northern branch of the Sujing Quantou. After losing a war with the other two branches of the Sujing Quantou, they sought employment with the Russian government, serving them from 1720 to 1861. What that ended, they became miners and mercenaries for hire.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Posh Charlie has unpleasant memories of his time in the trenches during the Battle of the Somme in World War I and cites this as an example of humanity's inability to use technology wisely.

Tropes that appear in Operation Storm City:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Despite the centuries-long feud between the Kalaxx and the other orders of the Sujing Quantou, the Sujing Quantou and the crew of the Expedient feel that the Kalaxx didn't deserve to be mowed down.
  • Big Bad: General Nikolai Pugachev, a Romanov loyalist who seeks to use Ur-Can to wipe out the Bolsheviks for the death of his family.
  • Disney Villain Death: Julius Pembleton-Crozier kicks Pugachev off the control platform to his death.
  • End of an Age: This book details the fall of the Sujing Quantou as their weapons prove inadequate against modern technology like machine guns and flamethrowers.
  • Enemy Mine: Becca and Doug team up with Julius Pembleton-Crozier to stop Pugachev from activating Ur-Can.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Pugachev's family was killed by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution and his plot is to avenge them by causing mass climate change to kill the Bolsheviks.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Xi and Xu reveal that the Western Chapter of the Sujing Quantou was murdered by Pugachev's forces. The rest were killed on the expedition headed by Becca and Doug's parents.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: Pugachev’s forces use flamethrowers mounted on horses alongside their machine guns.
  • Flaying Alive: Pugachev had a man flayed alive for speaking out against the Czar.
  • Last of His Kind: Xi and Xu are left as the only surviving members of the Sujing Quantou.
  • Not Quite Dead: Professor Zorid, the scientist Chambois was framed for killing back in the first book. The only difference is that he's taller than before as an effect of inhaling too much of the fumes from zoridium, which explains the great size of the members of the Sujing Quantou.
  • Put on a Bus: Charlie’s still recovering from his wounds received in the previous volume.
  • Undying Loyalty: One of Pugachev's trademarks is his fanatic loyalty to the Romanovs.


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