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Guardian of the Dead


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An innovative urban fantasy steeped in Maori lore from a talented debut author

About the Author

Karen Healey is a New Zealander living in Australia. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne. She's writing a dissertation on the fan culture of American superhero comics, but her real expertise lies in discerning which of the Birds of Prey is objectively the most awesome (it's a tie between Oracle and the Huntress).


Ellie Spencer is attending boarding school in Christchurch while her parents travel around the world. Her straightforward life revolves around school, her best friend Kevin, and assisting with a drama production, until a strange run-in with her enigmatic classmate Mark opens her eyes to a dark and dangerous world. The old stories, it seems, are true: something potentially life-threatening is waiting in the mists, with designs on Ellie and her friends. Guardian of the Dead, an original and exciting dark fantasy, is the debut novel from Karen Healey. Healey deftly draws on the rich Maori mythology of her native New Zealand to create an exotic and engaging world. Ellie is a fantastic central character, both strong and vulnerable, as well as smart and funny. Her supporting cast--human and otherwise--is well-rounded and convincing. Healy captures a sense of place very well, and her evocative descriptions of the New Zealand landscape add to the strong atmosphere of the book. The story itself is scary and fast-paced with high stakes and many twists. Suited to teenage readers for language and some situations, this book is enthusiastically recommended. Heath Graham is a teacher and occasional bookseller at A&R Greensborough

Gr 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 Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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