Saturday, November 5, 2011

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey


This is an intriguing YA urban fantasy in the tradition of Holly Black and Wicked Lovely. Set in New Zealand, Ellie's main concerns at her boarding school are hanging out with her best friend Kevin, her crush on the mysterious Mark, and her paper deadline. That is, until a mysterious older woman seems to set her sights on Kevin, who is Maori, and has more than just romantic plans for him. In an effort to save him, Ellie is thrown into the world of Maori lore, and eventually finds herself in an all-out war with mist dwelling Maori fairy people called the patupaiarehe who need human lives to gain immortality.
The strong, fresh voice of the narrator will pull readers in, along with all the deliciously scary details: the serial killer who removes victim's eyes; the mysterious crazy bum who forces a Bible on Ellie telling her she needs it; handsome, mysterious Mark who steals the Bible from her and then casts a forgetting charm on her. All of this culminates in a unique, incredible adventure steeped with mythology, Maori fairies, monsters, betrayal, and an epic battle.

My Review:

Guardian of the Dead
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ellie is a senior in high school in New Zealand, but her life is far from perfect. After the family survived her mother’s year of cancer, she has been placed at a boarding school while her parents celebrate her mother’s remission by a world tour. At the school, she makes friends with Kevin, and by trying to stay under the radar. But her ultimate crush, Mark, is hiding something, and when Kevin is put in danger, Mark is the only key to saving him… Just as Ellie is the only key to saving the world.

The Guardian of the Dead is a beautiful story that involves the darkness of mythology. It shows the violence, the incest, the death, and the sexism that are involved in all myths, which we ignore or avoid when we talk about them. It also shows the beauty of what can come from those horrors if we only look.

Personally, I loved this book. I have never really had a chance to learn about Māori myths or really anything about New Zealand, so I was a blank slate in that regards. What I loved most about the whole mythology of this book is how well it all blended with my previous knowledge of other mythologies. In the book, it actually is suggested that all mythology is true and shapes the world as we know it.

I loved both Mark and Ellie. Ellie is a strong woman. She has taken martial arts, and can defend herself. She is willing to fight for her friends, and to discover the truth no matter what information is being withheld. She is forgiving and loving to her friends and quick to defend them. I think my favorite part is where she and Mark get into a fight; or rather she beats up on Mark out of frustration on what he is withholding from her. She later regrets it (especially when she understands why he can’t tell her), and throughout the rest of the book, she is working with him to save Kevin and the world.

Mark is the character that you want to have a happily-ever-after. He seems too young to be burdened, but he is. He carries the guilt of what his mother did, the fear of the monster he thinks he is, the weariness of caring for his father, and the hope of one day being free of all of it. He wants to protect Ellie, and he seems to think the best way to do it is by withholding information. And that doesn’t always work.

I will admit that this book has made me a bit creeped out about walking into the mist or fog. Reka’s character absolutely terrified me. From her stalker-like behavior, walking around naked, trying to kidnap, maim, and/or kill to her haunting beauty that seems to entrance people, it just all tops it off for a very creepy character. Oh, and then what she does for Mark… EWWWWW! I would hate to run into her!

The only down points to this book is the placement of the glossary (why do you put it in the back? Wouldn’t it be easier to put it up front? I know it would be easier to find!), and the fact that the glossary wasn’t even a full 2 pages. There were a lot of words that I had no clue, and trying to look them up online while I’m reading got in the way of the story.

Overall, I think this is a great book, and I highly recommend it! I am looking forward to reading more by Ms. Healey.

Happy Reading!


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