First, let me say I love this cover, and what's inside is even better. 17 yr old Ellie as always called North Island, NZ home. When her parents take an unexpected trip, Ellie finds herself at a boarding school in South Island, NZ.
Ellie keeps to herself, with the exception of her best friend Kevin. Ellie respects the fact that Kevin is asexual and doesn't try to change him. She agrees to be a buffer between Kevin and his oldest friend Iris Tsang, who has a crush on Kevin.
Ellie's life gets interesting when she accidentally bumps into Mark Nolan, a quiet mysterious student with many secrets. Knowing almost nothing about Mark doesn't stop Ellie from being attracted to him. Soon, Ellie learns she has a few things in common with Mark. While Ellie's story plays out in, there's continuous new coverage on serial killings, the victims eyes are removed
Guardian of the Dead storyline is based around Maori mythology. That and the New Zealand setting made this novel stand out for me. Healey makes it very easy for those (like me) unfamiliar with Maori mythology to easily follow along, without missing a beat. I always enjoy reading stories set in other countries, especially if the author is from there or spent time there. Since the author's writing rhythms and style are going to be different . I can also visualize some place new. Healey does a wonderful job with the setting. I loved the pacing of the novel as well. I thought the set up in the beginning was very well done.
Healey gives the reader an opportunity to get to know Ellie. She is definitely a character I can get behind. Ellie is alert, listens to her instincts and has a Black belt in Tae Kwon Do. It was a pleasure to watch Ellie add up the clues in front of her and take action. Unlike some female protagonist who don't figure out what's going on until the novel is halfway over.
Guardian of the Dead is filled with wonderful surprises, that the author never felt the need to drag out. The ending is very satisfying and totally unexpected. Much of action comes before, the ending is quiet reflective and beautiful.
Guardian of the Dead is a wonderful YA debut, made even better by the inclusion of a diverse cast of characters. A few pages in Ellie, must keep her roommate, Samia from opening her door. Not long after that Ellie's clues us in on Kevin's heritage. Like Devil's Kiss by Chadda, Guardian of the Dead reflects a world filled with many cultures, relgions and races. ages 13up
One last thing, I loved the afterword and Maori glossary in the back. I have much respect for an author, who writes a story influenced by a culture other than their own, and freely admits to their limitations
"Finally, I caution the reader against drawing parallels between the mythological constructs depicted and contemporary constructs depicted here and contemporary Maori society. This novel is greatly indebted to Maori mythology and draws on some points of traditional Maori social and religous custom: it touches only very lightly on the diverse cultures, politics, and history of modern Maori life, and that only as through the eyes of a 17 yr old Pakeha woman, who is very far from being a reliable narrator."
Check out this great review @ The Book Smugglers