A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{January 5, 2012}   Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Plot: Ellie is just an ordinary boarding school student with a crush on the mysterious boy in her class. Or so she thought. Strange things have been happening around her: People are being murdered, their eyes stolen, and a strange woman with an unhealthy fixation on Ellie’s best friend has appeared. Strangest yet is Mark, her crush, who seems tied to both mysteries and who she is starting to suspect has put a spell on her. He may be the only one who can help her save her best friend and all of New Zealand, but she doesn’t know if she can trust him. Before she knows it she finds herself caught up with creatures straight from Maori mythology and in the middle of an epic struggle for immortality.

This book blew me away. I feel a kind of kinship with Healey who was born in the same year as me (though on the other side of the world) and clearly shares a lot of my tastes and values. ^_^

The exploration of Maori myths (and the myths from several other traditions along the way) is fascinating and Healey weaves them seemlessly into her story. Stories in her world have real weight and power and she really brings them to life. Meanwhile her magical system, which is grounded in objects and quite interesting, deserves much more exploration.

Ellie is an amazing heroine… and more than a little like me, actually, which is refreshing. How often do we get geeky, slightly chubby, vegetarian, martial art practicing, classics loving heroines in our fantasy YA? (I’m rather short, though, and I’ve never saved my country, so we’re not completely alike ;)). Her love story is also very different. Just as Ellie is not typically feminine, Mark is not particularly masculine (playing with traditional gender roles! As though I needed more reasons to love this book) though still gorgeous and totally my type. I’d listen to him tell myths all day. Their romance is beautiful and painful, full of healing and betrayal and it will not end how you expect, trust me.

This book is also amazing for diversity both racial (though the heroine is white and her love interest passes, most characters are not and Ellie does try to be aware of her privilige) and sexual. The first makes me very happy. The second touched on new ground in YA as far as I know (though please correct me if I’m wrong), by having a charater who is not heterosexual or homosexual, but asexual. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never sat down and thought about what it means to be asexual so I have to thank Healy for expanding my worldview. I really felt for this wonderful character, who is kind, intelligent, gorgeous and a great mate, but has to struggle against people’s expectations of him (and of young men in general). As he says, whatever a person might think about homosexuality, at least they understand the concept.

I can’t think of anything that I didn’t like about the book. I kind of want to run out and get Healey’s second book, The Shattering, right now. But I will restrain myself at least until morning. I must however beg, nay demand, a sequel to this book and send you all off to her website to read a story about fairies and pavlova.



[…] fascinating, complex and diverse YA fiction that really speaks to me. You can read my ravings about Guardian of the Dead and The Shattering. So naturally, I was very excited about her new novel and I started it as soon […]

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