"You're Ellie Spencer."
I opened my mouth, just as he added, "And your eyes are opening." Seventeen-year-old Ellie Spencer is just like any other teenager at her boarding school. She hangs out with her best friend Kevin, she obsesses over Mark, a cute and mysterious bad boy, and her biggest worry is her paper deadline. But then everything changes. The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie's circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, "You need it. It will save your soul." Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality.
I'm not quite sure where to start my review for this one. My feelings for this book were continuously changing, so much so that I'm not sure what my final opinion was or if I even have a definitive opinion. What I can say is that Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey was intriguing, the whole way through.
This being Healey's YA Debut novel I tried not to set my hopes too high, I feel like it's unfair to the book because sometimes a reader can come into the reading with too many high expectations and fail to give it a chance because it's not part of a series they already love or an author they're already familiar with. If I did come into this with high expectations it was unintentional, but regardless Healey met or surpassed them, that much I can say for sure.
For me it's usually all about the characters, or at least mostly. If I can't relate to a character or find myself desperate to stay with them along their journey through the story than already the book has failed to live up to my normal expectations. This was not the case with Guardian of the Dead. The main character Ellie Spencer was wonderful. She was different from a lot of the typical female protagonists I've read lately and I found that refreshing. She had a sharp-wit and so much going for her, but at the same time readers will see immediately that she was struggling in her life. She was constantly comparing herself to others and always found herself lacking, self esteem was a major issue for Ellie throughout the book, but at the same time it became an integral part of the story.
As side characters went, Kevin (the best friend) and Iris (the girl who loves the best friend) were great. They were simple and yet perfect for their roles, they didn't overly complicate the plot and definitely didn't slow down the writing. But let's face it...I'm a sucker for the male leads/prospective love interests for my main characters, and in Guardian of the Dead, Healey threw me a curve ball with Mark Nolan. I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't read the book yet, but I'll say this...Mark was mysterious, frustrating at times, adorable at other times, and I loved him and hated him at multiple points in the book. What's not to love about a guy like that right? All I know is that he wasn't your typical love interest, enough said!
Healey brought a lot of Māori mythology & legends into this novel. I was not familiar with it prior to reading the book and will admit to being confused and slightly overwhelmed at certain points, but overall I enjoyed the lessons. I've always been interested in mythology and other faiths/beliefs that I may not have been knowledgeable in before hand. Along with my confusion there was a matching fascination.
If you haven't read this novel yet, I'm not sure why...go out and see for yourself the truly creative and beautifully written work that Healey presents.
I gave Guardian of the Dead 4 shamrocks and truly look forward to more of Healey's work, which includes me crossing my fingers for a sequel!!!!
P.S. Don't forget to enter my contest that opened yesterday...you have until May 21st...don't miss out on your chance to win!
Also be sure to check out Alexandra Bracken's blog for more information on her current contest that runs until April 27th...you won't wanna miss this one either!