Guardian of the Dead

GuardianDeadCover By Karen Healey; Published 2010.

As a librarian, I have a dangerous habit of thinking of a topic and then checking out pretty much anything I can find on that topic in our library system. I’ve done this with C.S. Lewis, I’ve done it with Tolkien, I’ve done it with fairy tales, Norse mythology, Celtic history, owls, and so on and so on. Usually I just end up skimming what I get because of course I go overboard and get way more than I could ever read.

Recently, I did this with New Zealand. It’s not the first time I’ve done it so most of what was in our catalog I’ve already read. But this was new: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey.

The book opens with our seventeen year old heroine, Ellie Spencer, hungover. Not really a good start for me. Her best friend, Kevin, is sleeping on the floor, also hungover. Kevin and Ellie are both students at a prestigious boarding school in Christchurch, New Zealand. Kevin is part Maori and pretty much the star of the school. Ellie’s not. Ellie hasn’t really fit in that much since coming to the school about a year ago. Her only friend is Kevin and she’s not involved in much of anything but school. So when Kevin begs her to help with a theater production he’s involved in at a local college, she reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Ellie’s crush, mysterious Mark, has been acting strange and sticking pretty close to Kevin. Also interesting is the gorgeous and mesmerizing woman who joins the play soon after Ellie does. What Ellie finds out about her and Mark will change her life forever.

Guardian of the Dead has a lot of Maori mythology in it. Which is fantastic because most of what I’ve been able to find on that topic has been rather dry and boring. But Ellie was what I really loved about this book. Despite the bad introduction, Ellie’s probably one of my favorite heroines that I’ve seen in a young adult novel. She’s been making some bad choices but that’s mainly because she’s still reeling from the “Cancer Year”, the year her mother had cancer and went through chemotherapy. She’s in a new school and a new city (her parents have taken some time off to travel the world since her mother has recovered, hence the boarding school). She’s tall. She’s also a little fat. Not obese, just the slight pudginess that comes from a former athlete who’s no longer doing much (I can relate). She makes bad decisions and she makes really, really good decisions. She’s a normal person.

Guardian of the Dead is creepy, funny, interesting, and fantastical. Highly recommended.


5 thoughts on “Guardian of the Dead

  1. jubilare says:

    “As a librarian…” I can’t relate to this paragraph at all. Nope. None. Not a bit… *shifty look*
    It’s lucky for me, in a way, that I work in a research library. Non-circulating. The main branch of the public library, though, is very close…

    “She’s a normal person.” You know, this is one of the most amazing things one can say about a character. It’s ironic how rare it is. That plus the tantalizing offer of Maori mythology has piqued my interest.


    • Mary says:

      I did the math. On average, I’ve checked out about 1.3 items on every day that I have worked here for the past three years. It’s like a sugar addict working in a bakery.

      It’s true! I think it was her physical appearance that got me the most. Most heroines seem to be either beautiful, pretty, or think they’re nothing special but actually are really, really gorgeous. But Ellie’s not. She’s not ugly, she’s not outstandingly attractive. Just…normal. I’d like to hear what you think if you get around to reading it!


      • jubilare says:

        That’s a good average. 🙂 There are certainly worse things to be addicted to.

        Here’s hoping I do! I have three borrowed books I am trying to get through at present. The one I am on is fascinating and on a topic that interests me greatly, but dense!


  2. […] me? Try reading The Rook by Daniel O’Malley. Or The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. Or Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. (True, there’s a love story in that one, but I’ve never read a more […]


  3. […] Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey. Another of my favorites. There is a love interest, but it’s a side story. It […]


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