Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Title: Guardian of the Dead
Author: Karen Healey
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown
Paperback, 333 pages
Date Published: August 3, 2011
Source: Publisher
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
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.
Guardian of the Dead is not quite the book it looks or sounds like it would be, but it is full of New Zealand-based mythology and a backstory of folklore that more than entertains. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in, so when weird things started happening and the explanations began to unfold, I was pleasantly surprised. And interested. If you know nothing about New Zealand culture/history/folklore, then be prepared for an overflow of information.

Which is both good and bad. It certainly keeps the reader enthralled, but it can be too much at times. It became a little difficult to keep the folklore tales straight and even understand some of them. But if you can stick with it, then you’ll come out with a very complete and captivating story.

My one major issue with the book was the main character. Ellie has all the makings of a very strong female character: she’s a bit of a loner, but has a good best friend; she’s intelligent, a little snappy, funny, and abrasive, but then she’s uber self-conscious and even self-hating. I understand that she may be uncomfortable with her weight, but she goes on, throughout the entire book, whining about how fat she is and comparing herself to other, gorgeous, thin girls. It made me hate her a little.

That being said, Guardian of the Dead, still has a lot to offer. The twists are very good, the characters (aside from self-hating main character) interesting – I wish we saw more of Ellie’s best friend Kevin – and the folklore something I’ve never heard about before. Karen Healey brings New Zealand to the reader and makes us a part of her fantasy, but entirely based in reality, world.

Opening line: I opened my eyes. ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages: “Stories change us; they change the world. People are stories of themselves.” ~ pg. 267
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find Karen Healey online:

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BookLuvr Mindy said...

I have troubles with books like this. I read a book that had a bunch of English folklore and I had troubles understanding what was going on. I had to do my research and didn't really get it until I did most of my research AFTER I finished the book. Thanks for the review!

Magical Urban Fantasy Reads

Lori said...

I didn't love this one either, and I think it was because I the main character. But I loved the setting so much! Great review.

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