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Guardian of the Dead    by Karen Healey Amazon.com order for
Guardian of the Dead
by Karen Healey
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

I know absolutely nothing about Mori mythology. In fact, I had never heard of the Maori people before I picked up Guardian of the Dead by New Zealander Karen Healey. Luckily, Healey weaves the mythology in with such a deft hand (and just the right amount of explanation for those of us on the other side of the world) that it does not hinder the enjoyment of the story one bit in fact, it adds to it.

Ellie Spencer is spending her last year of high school at Mansfield, an exclusive boarding school in New Zealand's South Island. Half way through the school year, Ellie still feels distant from her classmates who had already bonded over the years. The only real friend she has made is Kevin, and that is only because all of his friends had already graduated. Bored and feeling out of shape, Ellie, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, agrees to help Kevin's friend Iris with the fight choreography for her production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the nearby college.

Before she even starts, she literally runs into Mark, a handsome but solitary classmate, who warns her not to be out late at night. She figures it has something to do with the recent slayings attributed to a killer dubbed the Eyeslasher. But little does she know that these killings are steeped in the legends of the land. When things rapidly become strange at rehearsal, Mark has no choice but to open her eyes to the reality of the myths around them, but Ellie is not sure she can handle what she sees.

Guardian of the Dead is a dark, haunting tale of faeries, myths, and magic that stands out from other YA dark fantasies due to the unique setting and premise. Healey's writing brings to life not only the characters, but New Zealand itself in more ways than one. Everything is richly developed, from plot to characters to setting, making this a story that sticks with the reader for a long time. Luckily, Guardian of the Dead is only the first in a series. I know I cannot wait to see what Karen Healey gives us next.

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