Guardian of the Dead

Karen Healey

Guardian of the Dead
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Guardian of the Dead

Karen Healey

At her boarding school in New Zealand, Ellie Spencer is like any ordinary teen: she hangs out with her best friend, Kevin; obsesses over her crush on a mysterious boy; and her biggest worry is her essay deadline. Until everything changes. In the foggy woods near the school, something ancient and deadly is waiting.

Review

Ellie Spencer is a normal Kiwi girl who boards at a Christchurch high school, hangs out with her buddy Kevin, rails against teacherly authority, gets crushy over mysterious Mark, and sports a definite grumpy and sarcastic side that immediately endeared her to me.

When the story starts there are already unsettling events taking place - a serial killer who gouges out victim’s eyes is striking closer and closer to Christchurch. Life only gets creepier as Ellie learns more about Mark’s family and past, and senses a malevolent force growing stronger with the town. When Ellie is roped into helping out with a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream by the relentlessly peppy Iris Tsang, she comes up against the formidable and unsettling cast-member Reka, who takes an unhealthy interest in Kevin.

I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot, but suffice to say, the book builds to an extremely tense and exciting climax, where the future of the entire South Island is at risk. Guardian has all the trappings of really good urban fantasy (with a twist of horror): snappy dialogue, strong female characters who can hold their own in a fight (or use their wits against those larger and stronger), troubled romance, and the collision of the contemporary world with ancient mythology. What really set it apart from other books in the genre was Healey’s evocative NZ setting and the innovative incorporation of Maori mythology.

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