Thursday, 6 May 2010

Book Review: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey.

Product details:
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers.
Hardcover, 352 pages.
Release date: May 6th 2010 (UK)
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Target age group: Young Adult.
Source: ARC received from International Book Tours for review.

Product description from Amazon:

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.

Wow!  This book was like a breath of fresh air for me.  It’s unlike anything I’ve read before, and I really enjoyed it.  I read a lot of young adult urban fantasy, and while for the most part I really enjoy this genre, I feel that sometimes the characters and the settings can become a little formulaic.  Not in this book, though!  Karen Healey has created a unique story here.  The setting is New Zealand, and the theme, Maori myths and legends.  As an added bonus, you have Ellie Spencer to guide you on your way.  She’s one of my favourite female protagonists in a while.

We’re first introduced to Ellie as she wakes up tired and hungover after a night of drinking cheap beer and sharing secrets with her hunky best friend, Kevin.  I liked Ellie right from the start .  She’s very easy to relate to.  She’s not perfect, she makes mistakes, and she likes to break the rules.  I also liked the fact that she’s not a picture perfect female protagonist with supermodel good looks who has guys falling at her feet.   She feels awkward and slightly overweight, suffers from bad skin and is nervous around her major boy crush, the mysterious Mark Nolan.  So, just your typical teenager then, but it’s actually very refreshing that she’s written this way.

I admit having known absolutely zero about Maori mythology before reading this book, and while at times I had had a little difficulty keeping track of all the different gods and legends, mostly the story flowed quite easily as the writing style is very engaging. There’s also a glossary of Maori words at the back of the book, which is very helpful, so be sure to check that out.  I stayed up late into the night reading this one, even though I admit, my interest did wane just a little during the battle scenes -  not because they weren’t well written and entertaining, but just because I am not really one for major battle scenes and bloodshed.

For me the ending of the book was a little surprising, and while Guardian of the dead works well as a standalone novel, I can definitely say I was left wanting more.  According to Karen, if the demand is there for a sequel, she is ready and willing to write it.  So, get reading people.  I’m just dying to know what’s in store for Ellie and Mark, and where those two will go from here.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading Karen’s second novel, Summerton, due out 2011 which is, in Karen’s words “a YA paranormal adventure thriller where three teenagers try to find the real reason for their older brothers' apparent suicides. They're about to discover that Summerton's sunny weather hides some stormy secrets.”  Sounds intriguing!


  1. Glad you enjoyed it! I'll continue to wait patiently. :-)

  2. Yeah, it's a good one. You're actually lucky being last in a way, as you get to keep the book. (I think that's how it works?) and this one is worth keeping!

  3. Ooh, sounds fantastic! I'm glad you liked it. And I still like that cover - a lot!

  4. You definitely convinced me to pick up this book next time I'm at the bookstore. I've had my eye on this one; I'm glad you enjoyed it. Great review!

  5. I've been meaning to order this one and read it! The story sounds so interesting!


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