Sunday, October 24, 2010

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

   I came by this one from a much beloved author, Juliet Marillier. We were talking about the tattoo patterns from a character in one of her Sevenwaters Series, Bran. I mentioned how when I met this character, the New Zealand Mauri tattoo's came to mind when she described Brans body tattoos in her book. I thought I was just relating to what I knew being of Polynesian decent, but then she assured me saying that in fact the Mauri tattoo's did play an inspiring role when creating Bran's tattoos. I was delighted. She then asked if I had read Guardian of the Dead. . . I hadn't. Which meant I of course had to read it now.
     Guardian of The Dead by Karen Healey is a beautifully crafted debut novel that is set in New Zealand and packed with Maori mythology. If you're like me and am a sucker for cultural mythology, or just mythology period, this one will be one you'll want to pick up. And if you're still iffy? Look at the cover, I mean forget-about-it, talk about chills.
    Ellie Spencer is your average teen at a boarding school. The big dilemma in her life is the next big paper that's due, she has a crush on a boy at school and also has a best friend named Kevin. Pretty typical eh? Until that is, the string of horrible murderers called the eyelash killer, so named because the killer takes the victims eyes, draws a little too close for comfort. (creepy I now)
    An accidental bump into her mysterious crush Mark one day sets off a series of events that leaves Ellie feeling lost and confused---forgetting things she wants to remember but can't quite grasp. Then when her best friend Kevin who is nonchalant when it comes to girls (despite all the swooning from every girl in a 5-mile radius) and professes to be quite asexual becomes oddly glued to a new girl named Reka, Ellie finds herself worrying about a lot more than just that big paper that's due next week.
    I was glued from page 1. I'm not sure if it's because of the work load I've had at school, and my long fast from reading anything other than textbooks, but when I opened the cover to Guardian of the Dead I dove in head first.
     I loved the plot of the story. There was much mystery and intrigue to be had. I was instantly glued to Ellie's crush. He was so mysterious, I was reading faster to find out exactly who he was and why he kept on popping up at the weirdest of places in the oddest of times.  Healey would drop you hints here and there about him, little bits and pieces leading you on just so but never giving you the entire picture. The book incorporated lots of the Maori mythology---which I loved. I started this book not knowing much about the New Zealand Mythology and closed it loving that I learned more about their culture and people.
     Ellie is a bit over weight, which was quite refreshing when it comes to heroines and Kevin was a true best friend. As far as main character goes I was a bit more interested in the secondary ones. I would've loved to delve deeper into the characters and have that richness added to the already vivid canvass of the story. What was given of the characters, wasn't bad at all mind you, indeed it was my connection with them that kept me flipping pages. And believe me, some of them kept me wanting to back as far away from them as possible.
   She titled a glance at me as she passed, and I saw her eyes, undimmed by dusk and fog. they were strong and dark --- like greenstone under water--- but there was something wrong with them. It took me a long moment to realize that her face gave reason to my fears.
    The woman had no pupils.
     All in all a good read. Action driven plot infused with mythology and legend with characters that kept me glued to the pages. I'll definitely be looking out for Healey's other works.

    With a start, I realized I was still hanging outside the class room door, leaning against the cream-painted walls. Geography was in five minutes, and I hadn't done the homework. Why was I standing here noodling about poor suicidal Kathy someone? What was I---I'd wanted to talk to Mark. Or had he wanted to talk to me? I peered through the door's glass inset, rubbing at my aching temples. The wire mesh in the little rectangle mad everything look fuzzy and undefined, but I could see La Gribaldi shaking her crowned head at Mark, big arms folded over her breasts again. Mark seemed to be pleading for something. An extension? La Gribaldi looked unconvinced. Abruptly, she moved toward the door and I sprang back to lean against the corridor's far wall as she came out of the classroom, stiffening as she paused to stare at me. She surveyed me from toe to top, much as Reka had done in the mists, but her dark eyes met mine, a little puzzled, a little wary.
    "Interesting," she murmured, and walked on.
    Mark tried to scoot out after her, but I made my move lurching to block his path like a transportable human wall.
"Didn't you want to talk to me about something?" I asked.
As conversational gambits go, it probably lacked a certain something.
    He stopped, but didn't look at me. "No?"
    "Oh," I said, confused all over again. Maybe I had wanted to talk to him? There had been something, damn it. I improvised: "Um, I was wondering. Do you want to study for the Classics midterm exam with me?"
    Mark hesitated, pale face guarded. Something silver glinted at the wrist of his ragged sleeve. "When?"
    "After school sometime? In the library?
    "I have a job after school. And on the weekends."
    I didn't ask, Then why do all your uniform pants have holes?
"Just an idea," I said, trying not to sound huffy about the rejection. What had I expected? That after crashing into him at the gates we were going to be best buds?
    The headache eased and he nodded, smiling slightly. "It's not a bad idea. I'll think about it and let you know?"
    I brightened. "Sure!"
    "See you later."
    I frowned after him. His final sentence was a perfectly normal farewell. Why did it sound so tantalizingly familiar?

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Rummanah Aasi said...

I saw this one at my public library and was "iffy" about checking it out. Thanks to your review, I'm now interested. Great job!

KIKA said...

LOL Thanks Rummanah :) Glad you like the review. I'm eager to read how you liked it! I'll be stalking your blog :D

Asif said...


Nice review!. Any other recommendation similar to this?

KIKA said...

Asif: If you like the element of folklore in this one I'd suggest Juliet Marrilier's seven water series. I loved those :)