Misfits of Avalon is a fantasy series, but pretty set on 21st century Earth, the fantasy elements being generally malign intrusions from somewhere else. Four young women have been given rings that can transform their clothing and essentially give them a super power, but the rings can’t be removed until they’ve located a mystical sword, which research has revealed as Excalibur. When The Queen of Air and Delinquncy ended, the four girls had good reason not to trust Cu, the dog able to transform into a man who’d given them the rings, and readers would have picked up on how strange it was that Elsie’s brother seemed to have been in a fight when he collected them.

With the four main cast members now established Kel McDonald switches between Elsie, Kimber, Morgan and Rae more rapidly than before, which is a good thing. While it was nice to see kids with problems from working class backgrounds, Elsie, Morgan and the younger Kimber were all too similar in their responses to any situation, and over the opening two chapters McDonald highlights their differences, Elsie lighter, and Morgan’s mistrust founded on a sharp intuition. There’s also some interesting clarity about Rae, whose personality moves beyond snotty and vaguely manipulative to judgemental and more deceitful, and at times Kimber just seems lost, which isn’t much fun for her, but her subtext is convincingly handled. Because she’s also drawing the pages, McDonald includes some personality-defining moments without words, like Elsie’s brother Billy retrieving litter and binning it. By halfway through The Ill-Made Guardian the realisation strikes that the pages are turning because the cast are people to care about, while the plot that actually connects them has become secondary.

That plot, though, moves along pleasingly. The girls catch on to things at different times, but almost all of them are beginning to suspect to some degree that the person who gave them powers is hiding something important. There’s also a matter ending the previous volume that needs confirmed, and this is well handled, eventually setting up the conclusion in The Future in the Wind. This is far more satisfying than the opening volume, and raises Misfits of Avalon into a series to care about.