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Guardian of the Dead Hardcover – April 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 9 Up—Ellie Spencer wakes to the realization that there are empty beer cans at the foot of her bed and a boy on her floor. Neither is acceptable at her boarding school on the South Island of New Zealand. She remembers her promise to Kevin to assist with fight choreography for a production of Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by beautiful Iris Tsang, who, to Ellie's extreme annoyance, has a crush on Kevin. Ellie literally runs into mysterious and gorgeous Mark Nolan, receiving an odd shock in the process. He later warns her not to go out alone at night but then somehow causes her to forget their conversation while remembering his warning. On her way to practice one evening, Ellie crosses paths with a woman who sends a chill down her spine, only to find that this person, Reka Gordon, has been cast as Titania. Reka seems to have a power over Kevin that arouses Ellie's suspicions. In the background of all this strange interpersonal activity, news reports continue to cover the activities of a serial killer, the Eyeslasher, on the North Island. From this point, the weirdness and excitement increase exponentially. Healey has done a wonderful job of introducing Maori legends into modern life while using the play and Ellie's classics work to provide Shakespearean and Greek stories to bracket what, for most readers, will be a new mythology. This story starts off fast and strong and just builds from there.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Seventeen-year-old Ellie is spending a year at a New Zealand school while her parents vacation. Making friends gets easier when she puts her tae kwon do training to use by choreographing the fight scenes in a local college production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But there’s something she doesn’t like about the gorgeous actress Reka—maybe it’s the fact that her pupils disappear. On the other hand, there’s something she does like about hunky Mark—despite his tendency to hypnotize her. Both, it turns out, are locked in a mystical battle that is steeped in ancient Maori lore. Healey’s prose is a notch above others writing in this genre, and her take on Ellie's human relationships, especially with “frenemy” Iris and buddy Kevin is finely drawn. The supernatural story, however, never quite clicks. Still, the Maori legends that provide the basis for the plot (and which are further explained in an afterword) are a breath of fresh air after all the vampires, demons, and fairies out there. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: ALA: Youth Media Award Winners 2011
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031604430X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316044301
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Healey was born in Whangarei, New Zealand, and has lived in lots of places since, including Oamaru, Christchurch, Tokyo, Fuchu, and Melbourne.

She is the author of the award-winning young adult urban fantasy, "Guardian of the Dead", "The Shattering", "When We Wake," and "While We Run".

She likes baking, "World of Warcraft", and tripartite sentences. She used to want to be a dinosaur-hunting cowgirl, but it turned out she was much better at being a teacher, so she does that instead.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sixquarters on March 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
After a beginning that could come right out of a YA Plot Generator, the rest of the book is so unformulaic it's actually astonishing. I'm not referring to the atypical use of M'ori mythology for the fantastic elements, which is pretty sweet I think, but more to the tone of the book. This book is horror. It's YA fantasy horror, so it does it with a softened edge and a sense of purpose, but it's still got that deliciously murky and baroque sense of someone discovering how broad and bizarre the world is, and hello, that is not all good. And our heroine has to deal with that. Being a colonizer living in a settled land: it has some consequences! Hybrid culture: it is often literally life-saving, but not unambiguously good! Keep an eye out for Iris' Crowning Moment of Awesome.

It isn't a perfect book (I don't think Ellie's clearly unreliable enough, though I know it was Healey's intent, which causes some issues because Ellie is occasionally clueless; I wish the opening had had fewer adjectives) but it is so, so good. It is a three course meal of a book in bite-size form, like a Wonka dinner pill, and it is highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Baker on April 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Note: I actually gave this book 3 1/2 stars.

"Guardian of the Dead" was, unfortunately, hard to get into. For the first hundred pages or so, it felt like things kept starting to happen without ever actually happening. Some of these things, which were, in the scheme of things, mostly unimportant, were never really fully explained, which left me feeling slightly confused and turning back pages, trying to see if I had missed something. I hadn't.

In the beginning, I found it hard to get to know Ellie, and I found it hard to understand her relationship with Kevin and Iris. Her supposed obsession with Mark was never enough elaborated on to give me a sense that she actually had a crush on this strange, unwashed boy. Things that I assume were supposed to be used as foreshadowing or to add a bit of suspense left me frustrated more than anything else. I almost felt like the entire first 1/3 or even 1/2 of the book could have and should have been diminished down to 20 pages or so. She started too much that was unnecessary, and she didn't fully explain it.

Luckily, the book did eventually pick up. Ellie turned out to be a super cool, kick-butt, totally likable heroine. Her relationships with the people around her, once they started to make sense, were fun and fresh, even if her attraction to Mark was never developed enough to be believable. Things that had seemed boring in the first part of the book suddenly became interesting and full of life, as if they had just been introduced too early. The story itself was engaging, and, in the end, suspenseful. The descriptions seemed so accurate that at times I felt like I really was in Ellie's head, making sense of this new paranormal aspect to my previous normal world in the same way she was.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By LemurKat on March 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Well written and with a strong New Zealand flavour. Healey draws on the popular aspects of teenage literature - relationships, mysterious strangers, the supernatural but with a decidedly off-beat twist. Her heroine is not slender and beautiful, but real and with a decidedly wry, slightly sarcastic, sense of humour. Her research into Maori (and other) mythology clearly shows though, but is neither pompous nor pretentious and she only shares what it relevant to the plot - enough to tempt the reader to undergo their own research. I enjoyed this novel, Healey's first, immensely and although I may be somewhat biast, I do feel it is a strong contender in the oversaturated field. It was also nice to see descriptions of places I'd actually been - Napier, for example, and my own home city of Christchurch as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By CoLiamPet on November 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
To be perfectly frank, I had a difficult time deciding on a rating for this novel. Contrary to a few of the editorial reviews, I didn't think this novel hit the ground running, though it did pick-up momentum as the story progressed. It dragged in the beginning, seeming to take its time finding the right pace and, at times, seemed a bit disjointed. I think that's in part due to the disparities between cultures (New Zealand, the setting for this book, versus America). There are innumerable differences between the language and educational systems that take some getting used to and can pull the reader from the story. But once you've acclimated to these differences the story moves more smoothly. So, in order to be perfectly fair in my review, I felt it necessary to point this out. The Maori cultural references are also a little distracting, requiring the reader to reference a glossary at the back pulls one out of the story and, at times, makes it difficult to reengage. It's a necessary element to the plot, and certainly warranted, but I wish it were more seamless, though I'm not certain how the author could have accomplished that without losing authenticity. But once the story took shape and you've had a chance to acclimate, it's a wonderful story. And once the action starts, it doesn't slow until the epilogue.

The book ramps up about one quarter of the way in, slowly building into a compelling, interesting tale; blending local New Zealand folklore, mythology and supernatural creatures and deviating from the now, all-too-pat, Y/A paranormal crap. Again, once the action begins to take shape, it never ceases and the first portion of the book is designed to set-up the balance of the story.
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