Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

I enjoyed reading a book that was based on folklore that I was not familiar with – however, I found that I was not enamored with the book.  Why?  I’m really not sure… Could it be because I didn’t have a basis for the story?  There were times when I was a bit confused – but maybe I didn’t spend enough time learning about the Maori.  I’ll admit I’m really curious now though – the last bit of the story reminded me of lore surrounding Glooscap and Cape Blomidon in Nova Scotia.  And yes…  I’m one of these silly people that does NOT look at the back of the book while I’m reading – I’m so worried that I’ll read the ending that I avoid the back altogether…  And for those of you that have read this book will understand that there’s a glossary back there – something that I should have taken advantage of during my reading

The story is geographically based in New Zealand and based on Maori mythology.  Ellie Spencer attends a private school on the South Island while her parents travel for the year.  Here she meets her best friend, Kevin who convinces her to get involved with a theatrical production.  Since Ellie has a black belt in Tae-Kwon Do, she was recruited to teach the acting crew how to fight safely.  A new replacement actress, Reka, develops a strange and eerie attraction to Kevin that has both Ellie and Iris worried for Kevin.  Along comes Mark, Ellie’s secret crush who all out of the sudden starts talking to Ellie and paying more attention to her than he ever has.  As the story evolves Ellie learns the truth of who Kevin is and his relationship with Mark and Reka and learns the truth behind all the myths she grew up with.

This was Karen Healey’s debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the future!

Favourite quotes:

“…and the pain was like an uninteresting conversation in another room.”       p. 178

“He’ll twist the truth around on itself, and hand you the knot, and laugh when you can’t find where it begins.”      p. 249

Healey, Karen.  (2010).  Guardian of the Dead. New York, NY:  Little, Brown and Company.

Author website:


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