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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new voice in Young Adult Urban Fantasy!, 6 May 2010
This review is from: Guardian Of The Dead (Hardcover)
Wow! This book was like a breath of fresh air for me. It's unlike anything I've read before, and I really enjoyed it. I read a lot of young adult urban fantasy, and while for the most part I really enjoy this genre, I feel that sometimes the characters and the settings can become a little formulaic. Not in this book, though! Karen Healey has created a unique story here. The setting is New Zealand, and the theme, Maori myths and legends. As an added bonus, you have Ellie Spencer to guide you on your way. She's one of my favourite female protagonists in a while.

We're first introduced to Ellie as she wakes up tired and hungover after a night of drinking cheap beer and sharing secrets with her hunky best friend, Kevin. I liked Ellie right from the start . She's very easy to relate to. She's not perfect, she makes mistakes, and she likes to break the rules. I also liked the fact that she's not a picture perfect female protagonist with supermodel good looks who has guys falling at her feet. She feels awkward and slightly overweight, suffers from bad skin and is nervous around her major boy crush, the mysterious Mark Nolan. So, just your typical teenager then, but it's actually very refreshing that she's written this way.

I admit having known absolutely zero about Maori mythology before reading this book, and while at times I had had a little difficulty keeping track of all the different gods and legends, mostly the story flowed quite easily as the writing style is very engaging. There's also a glossary of Maori words at the back of the book, which is very helpful, so be sure to check that out. I stayed up late into the night reading this one, even though I admit, my interest did wane just a little during the battle scenes - not because they weren't well written and entertaining, but just because I am not really one for major battle scenes and bloodshed.

For me the ending of the book was a little surprising, and while Guardian of the dead works well as a standalone novel, I can definitely say I was left wanting more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique in every way!, 4 Sep 2010
Dwayne @ Girls Without a Bookshelf (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Guardian Of The Dead (Hardcover)
It's not often in young adult literature that find myself immersed in a completely brand new culture, but while reading Guardian of the Dead I find myself in exactly that. Karen Healey's novel brings to vivid life the richness of Maori culture, painting myths and beliefs in strokes so detailed, it had me captivated from beginning to end.

I am a language and culture enthusiast, but I have not quite grasped what Maori culture has to offer until I read this book. Guardian of the Dead gives such exquisite detail to Maori mythology the book itself takes almost a magical quality. I felt that thrill I remember feeling as a child listening to the re-telling of various legends and myths. Maori mythology is epic - it's a story on a large, grand scale. My reading was two-fold; I was reading to learn about Maori mythology from the perspective of someone being introduced to it the first time, and reading to align said mythology to the plot. Like any, Maori mythology is, at times, violent with grim and bloody images. It's troubling, it's creepy, it's beautiful. But it's also solid, and it's unique.

Apart from Maori mythology woven into the plot, the uniqueness of Guardian of the dead also springs from its diverse characters. From Samia, Ellie's religious muslim friend, to Kevin, her asexual best friend, the characters in this book depict the portrayal of a multi-cultural society and more. Ellie Spencer herself is a three dimensional character whose strength, determination and honesty drew me towards her. Her insecurities are relatable, her actions understandable - her attributes reflect those of whom I see myself hanging out with. These characters are also connected to the mythology and the twists surrounding that adds further to the intricacy of this book. I am also a fan of the romance in this book - I like how it was not the whole focus of the story, but it's a strong part of it. Ellie and Mark are two wonderful puzzle pieces together, developing from barely friends to trusting partners. And while the ending is not exactly happily ever after, it's plausible, it ties the plot neatly and is open to further exploration. It's one of those books that is excellent as a stand-alone, but I'd a sequel for.

While reading, I found the narrative to be fragmented at first. However, that was soon rectified and explained, and it was a smooth flow from hence. I think it's worth noting that there are a lot of Maori terms in this book, so unless you're familiar with them it is easy to be confused. At first I felt as if the book was written for those who already knew Maori mythology - or Maori words at least - but as the plot deepens, it becomes clear that readers do get an in-depth explanation of a lot of things. I still ended up having to search online for meanings - but rest assured, there is a glossary at the end which lists and explains these. However, I usually avoid looking at the end pages before reading as I am weary of spoilers, so I did not notice the glossary until after reading. It would have been nice to know the terms beforehand, but I suppose a re-read won't do any harm, would it?

With an epic mythology, a great plot and diverse characters, Guardian of the Dead should be enjoyed by everyone, fan of mythologies or not. If you're a culture enthusiast, a YA lover and are interested in the coming together of the contemporary and the ancient, this book is made for you!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Guardian of the Dead, 29 May 2010
Sarah (Feeling Fictional) (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Guardian Of The Dead (Hardcover)
Ellie has recently started at boarding school while her parents travel the world for a year. She is struggling to fit in but at least she has her best friend Kevin to hang out with. Everything starts to change when she literally bumps into the mysterious Mark who she has had a crush on for ages. She has blank spaces in her memory but when she tries to remember what happened she suffers from horrible headaches. But what does all of this have to do with Mark and does it have anything to do with the horrifying murders that are being committed?

Before I read Guardian of the Dead I knew absolutely nothing about Maori mythology but Karen Healey has done an amazing job of bringing legends to life in a way that makes it really interesting to read. She has created a great heroine in Ellie - someone who may not be the prettiest or skinniest girl but who doesn't allow her insecurities to take over her personality. She is strong & determined and able to defend herself but always uses physical force as a last result. Mark is the perfect hero for a YA story - cute, mysterious and a bit of a bad boy, what more could a girl want?

I found the story action packed and completely different from anything I've read before. There were some great secondary characters in Kevin (Ellie's best friend) and Iris who was a lot more important to the story line than I expected her to be but was another great female role model. The ending was unexpected and although the story did have a proper ending I can easily imagine this being turned into a series - if it does it will definitely be going on my buy list. A great debut from Karen Healey and I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 16 Oct 2011
EJG (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Guardian Of The Dead (Paperback)
In a genre awash with Western mythology, Karen Healey has created something special. The setting, the careful use of Maori mythology combined with one of the most engaging heroines I have read all year make this a fantastic book. Now I'm off to buy her latest...
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4.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully set unique story, 4 July 2010
This review is from: Guardian Of The Dead (Hardcover)
Guardian Of The Dead is a story filled with myths and legends from a rather book-wise unexplored country,New Zealand.

First and foremost I have to admit that after reading so many books set in the US, the change of scenery was exhilarating, to say the least!I loved every bit of Maori myth Healey added to the story, even though I have no idea which parts of it is the "real" myth and which parts were altered to fit the story and to be honest, I don't really care! Healey's writing pulled me in from the very beginning until the very end.
I loved the fact that I learned so may things I didn't know about New Zealand, a country I had always wanted to visit. From its fascinating mythology, presenting me with new takes one the creation of the world, which includes beings such as Sky-Father and Earth-Mother, patupaiarehe(a kind of Maori fairy) and Hine-nui-te-po, the guardian of the dead herself, to the beautiful and picturesque scenery.The idea of this book was so fresh and different and unique, like nothing I have ever read.Also, Healey's clever use of the mask, the story behind it and what it represents, was in my opinion the best aspect of the book.

The characters were also amazing.100% believable characters in a 100% fictional story.Ellie, the lead, is a 17 year old girl, with the all the angsts and insecurities of girls her age.She is also brave and giving, willing to do anything for her friends.She is strong,determined and can take a fight any day, all the while maintaining her feminine side with a humorous awkwardness.She had a very good chemistry with Mark and I liked that she tried to keep her distance from him when she found out some things she didn't like, instead of falling straight into his arms.

The only teeny tiny problems I had with this book was that the Eyslasher story,which I'd like to know more of, was pretty much a dead end and the taniwha situation in the end.I really hope the latter won't be a problem if Healey decides to make it into a series.

All in all, Guardian Of The Dead is a very fresh,original and intriguing story, set in an beautiful country, with amazing characters.What's not to love? Anyone who is even remotely into mythology of any kind, should definitely read this!
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Guardian Of The Dead
Guardian Of The Dead by Karen Healey (Hardcover - 6 May 2010)
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