Review Blog

Apr 29 2010

Guardian of the dead by Karen Healey

cover image

Australia: Allen and Unwin, 2010. ISBN 9781741758801.
UK: Little, Brown, 2010. ISBN 9780316044301.
(Age 15+) Recommended. Ellie Spencer is just an ordinary girl, hanging out with her best friend Kevin and trying to keep her studies going. She lives at a boarding school in New Zealand but one day everything changes. Fog invades the forest near the school and there is a murderer on the loose. Ellie is frightened by the weird eyes of Reka, a woman who has a part in the play she is helping with, and Mark, the mysterious dark boy she has a crush on, seems to be manipulating her mind.
There are several surprises in the story that set it above other fantasy stories. Kevin, Ellie's best friend is asexual, and this is handled sensitively by Healey. The romance between Ellie and Mark grows slowly and there is an awesome conclusion. The shadowy Reka is a satisfying villain, and there are shocks in store for the reader with her character. Best of all, Ellie is a strong girl and I found it very easy to identify with her problems and cheer along with her as she found her powers.
This is an original fantasy and its use of Maori myths and legends make it a welcome addition to other books like A great and terrible beauty by Libba Bray, which also delve into the supernatural. Even though I was not familiar with Maori mythology, I found that I was fascinated with the idea of a Guardian of the dead and would certainly recommend this story to lovers of fantasy.
Pat Pledger

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