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Guardian of the Dead

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  3,178 ratings  ·  550 reviews
"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
Hardcover, First Edition, 342 pages
Published April 8th 2010 by Little, Brown and Company (first published April 2010)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,178 ratings  ·  550 reviews

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Mar 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, 2011, read-but-unowned
There is a lot to love about Guardian of the Dead. Here's the shortlist:

- a smart, kind of nerdy heroine
- the freedom/restrictions of boarding school
- use and explanation of Maori myth (by a white author who has the balls to point out in the text the colonial nature, possible inaccuracies, and just plain wrongness of Maori myth written down by white people)
- high school use of a university library, because serious shizz calls for serious research
- patupaiarehe (fairy-type creatures), on
3,5 mythological stars

“You’ll see the big stories, the ones that have formed the shape of the world around you. And you carry your own mythologies with you, so you can see the stories that are important to you, the ones that parts of you believe.”

Eleanor Spencer is a good girl, so after her mother survives cancer and wants to spend some quality time traveling with her husband, she offers attend a boarding school.
(Points for not whining about it. )

Then, paranormal stuff happen. Cute guys. Some cr
Guardian of the Dead is a unique YA novel that takes place in New Zealand and involves Māori (indigenous New Zealand) myths. I wanted to love this novel so much, and almost did. Unfortunately, it suffered from a severe case of literary ADD. Did it want to be a coming of age novel? Māori folktale? Urban fantasy adventure? Love story? Of course, it can be all of this and more, but when one aspect of this story picked up, the others would suffer.

Guardian of the Dead begins with seventeen year old
May 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, young-adult
Eleanor (Ellie) Spencer is attending a boarding school in New Zealand in lieu of her last year at high school. Her parents have left on vacation to celebrate her mother's miraculous recovery from cancer, and they have left Ellie in the prestigious yet dreary Mansfield College. Things are shaken up a bit when her best friend, Kevin, becomes attracted to an ambiguous woman even though he has always claimed to be asexual. And later on Elie finds herself falling for the mysterious Mark Nolan, a youn ...more
May 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to read this book in manuscript form. It's funny, intense, magical, dark, and scary - an urban fantasy for teens in a New Zealand setting so vividly and perfectly described that I honestly felt I was there, even though I've never been to New Zealand in my life. I love the distinctively different magic in this novel, and the emotionally truthful relationships among the characters. I can't wait to read many more novels by Karen Healey! ...more
Feb 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
I didn't really know what I expected when I got this book, not really familiar with any New Zealand myths, so I was pleasantly surprised how good this book really was.

Karen Healey weaves an interesting plot that mixes myths, mythology and mystery that makes Guardian of the Dead a very unique take for this particular paranormal element. The writing draws you in, leading you into the drama but with a leashed pace.
The characters were written really well and I connected with all of them right away.
Jul 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2010
Guardian of the Dead gives a new perspective to the usual spiel of boarding schools, the outcast heroine and the hotch potch of supernatural elements. The story is set in New Zealand and the setting closely reflects the story and mythology contained within the pages of the book. It starts strong but somehow in the middle, it starts to lose its hold on the pace and the narrative and never regains it in quite the same way. The mythology is not inserted into the story as seamlessly as possible and ...more
Jul 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
If you enjoy reading about mythology, magic, supernatural beings, and learning about new cultures and folklores of other countries, and in this case New Zealand's, this is your cup of tea. And if you like reading about strong heroines and young adult romance, then you definitely need to grab this book.

The book is about Ellie, a teen attending a boarding school in New Zealand. In her obsession with a mysterious guy in school, Ellie finds herself with potential magical abilities and becomes invol
Jan 21, 2012 rated it liked it
When you have as many TBR books as I do, it's hard to keep track of what came from where. If I had to guess, I'd say I got this book off a list of good LGBTQ young adult, or possibly a friend recced it due to the presence of an asexual character. The book isn't worth it just for that -- nothing is worth it just for checking a diversity box -- but it is worth it.

It's a lively bit of fantasy about a girl at a boarding school who -- you think you can fill in the rest of this one, and you can in br
Diane Ferbrache
Dec 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Ellie is just getting over the shock of her mother's cancer when she is sent to a boarding school on the south island of New Zealand. There she makes a couple of good friends, excels in her classes (especially Classics), finds herself strangely attracted to a young man, and encounters a woman who seems to have a strang power over her. Ellie's odd misgivings about the woman prove to be true when Ellie learns her true nature.

This is a mystery/adventure novel deeply influenced by Maori legends and
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya, 2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This was quite a story. The beginning was full of loose ends that left you questioning what was happening and what the characters were hiding, but as the story progressed everything in the mystery was revealed and all the loose ends tied up, leaving you shocked at what the story had become. The beginning leaves you thinking that this is just another teen novel where a girl becomes interested in a mysterious guy, but it was so, so, so incredibly far from that, it left me dumbfounded as I read. He ...more
Steph Su
Jul 08, 2009 rated it liked it
While certainly different from most speculative YA fiction out there, GUARDIAN OF THE DEAD did not give me the connectivity that I always require from an enjoyable reading experience. For me, it was an ambitious debut novel that was successful in the details of YA originality but missed most of the larger essentials of storytelling.

The things I appreciated about this book were mostly, sadly, superficial, at least when it comes to my criteria for liking a book. I appreciated that Ellie did not ha
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I give it 5 stars, because it was original, interesting and FINALLY not about vampires, werewolves, fairies and the lot. Although, the character DID attend a boarding school...yeesh. A main female character who wasn't a 125 lb. smart/cute/AP Class taking, SAT ace, doesn't know she's beautiful, has hot guys vying for her hand....Yeah, I mean you Bella, Nora, Bianca, etc..... If I gave it stars based how how much I liked it, or how I felt after reading the last page...2 stars.

Boarding school is s
Original Review HERE

First Impressions:

Ana: Wow. WOW . I could not be more in love with this novel . The writing, the characters, the mythologies, the ideas behind the plotting and characterisation, everything is just as I like and hope whenever I open a book. I knew I was reading something different and unique even, when the heroine beats the shit out of the “hero” so that she can protect her best friend. Superb, just superb and I can hardly believe this is a debut work.

Thea: What Ana said. Seri
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked it, I felt uncomfortable reading it, but it was a good story and the main character was flawed and fabulous.
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
Guardian of the Dead is a good book that benefits from having an excellent narrator and audiobook. The story itself has a lot going for it--mythology, New Zealand, a smart doesn't-take-shit from anyone heroine. But at times, the writing drags the story down. It liked to use clever turns of phrases like "I ate till my stomach touched my jeans" which FYI doesn't make sense, and overused adverbs in dialogue tags. Clumsily writing that detracts from an interesting tale.

Fortunately the story itself i
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
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[It’s a New Zealand based mythological YA Fiction book]…

Whoa! Now where’s that came from?
Incredibly unique tale with so stunning writing…

That unknown girl or say that unknown creature. She was not human of course but that’s not what surprised me at first side! What crept the hell out of my mind was on that forest at night surrounded by mist was totally exciting to read. The power about her that brought numbers of Gecko on that very time in the purpose to attack Eleanor Spencer! Well it
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, fantasy
Guardian of the Dead is not like anything you've ever read. Yes, it's a dark fantasy novel in a contemporary setting with teenage protagonists, and those books are overpopulating the world at present, but there's not a whiff of European monsters in here. The mythology she uses is Māori and incredibly well researched (complete with an afterword and a glossary at the end of the book). The heroine is uncomfortably overweight, and remains so even after the end of the novel. Nobody "fixes" it, either ...more
I was so incredibly, pleasantly surprised by this book. I needed one more book for a 2016 challenge, that was set in NZ. I wasn't enjoying my original pick, and was ready to throw in the towel on the challenge on the 29 Dec. However, Lexx thought that was stupid, and found rec for this book. Māori mythology? Sign me up! And our library who I have never been able to find anything before on their online systems had it available. It was so easy, so I of course prepared myself for a terrible YA book ...more
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq, ya, sf-f
I love stories about stories, especially ones that explore what stories mean to us and why they’re important. Greek legends, Shakespeare, Māori creation myths and superhero comics all get a look-in in Guardian of the Dead, and they twist and combine in strange ways that reflect the way Ellie experiences them – contradictory but complementary, opposite truths that blend together rather than diminishing each other.

Māori legends form the basis for much of the (twisty and exciting) plot, and I came
Dec 12, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
When I first heard about this book it sounded so interesting that I added it on my list right away. However, the synopsis I read a before failed to mention one thing that the synopsis on the book mentioned: fairies. I am not a big fan of faeries and am very picky when choosing fairy based books but I still decided to give Guardian of the Dead a try. Sadly I was dissapointed.

At first it sounded pretty interesting, even though I kept getting distracted and not wanting to read, but I tried to focus
MissHavoc {Cry Havoc! Reviews}
Review: I really wanted to like this book, but I was really just confused the whole time. I must say that Ellie, the protagonist, was very believable and really likable. She seemed like a real person. Other than that though, I didn't really understand what was happening in the story. It probably is because I'm an ignorant American and the author and characters are from New Zealand, including the lingo and story-telling style. The characters are all based on Maori legends, which is part of New Ze ...more
May 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
The first 150 or so pages of the book don’t really hint at it, but this turns into a pretty cool story.

The book begins with Ellie’s mundane school days in New Zealand. Her best and only friend is Kevin and it’s soon established that there’s zero romantic interest. Hallelujah! There’re some boringly repetitive references to her negative body image (which is later amusing when Ellie proclaims that self-hate is a real turn off)—but I appreciate that she’s described realistically. This first half se
Apr 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 8th grade is ok, and older
The story is steeped in New Zealand myth and explores how the stories and myths we believe shape our lives and world.

After a horrible battle with cancer her mother survives and Ellie's parents celebrate with a long worldwide trip. (Interesting twist, eh? The parents are not killed off, they live! and go on a glorious trip- I like it)

Ellie, on the other hand, celebrates by going to a boarding school on the Southern Island of New Zealand, there she is best friends with Kevin (the georgeousest boy
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian, ya, nz
This edition of the book suffers from a terrible case of cover fail - it's completely unappealing and does nothing to invite its intended audience (or ANY audience) to read it. I put off opening it for many months simply because it looked terrible. The font, the art and the design do nothing to make the book appeal, and that's a major disappointment, because it's a great story inside that terrible cover. Utilising local mythology, Healey writes engaging and interesting characters into an excitin ...more
A fresh and exciting young adult fantasy novel. It's like Healey took all the things I'd been yearning for and rolled them together in one great book. Teenage girl protagonist who's both believable and completely awesome? Check. Several supporting characters who are just as awesome as she is, including perhaps my favorite depiction of an ultrafeminine girl since Cordelia Chase? Check. A nuanced exploration of a multicultural society (in this case, New Zealand)? Check. A deliciously creepy and or ...more
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a love letter to New Zealand, and I enjoyed it so much.

You'd think I'd be biased, being a New Zealander and all, but it should actually be the opposite. New Zealand books have a bad rep with New Zealand YA readers, because we're pretty used to all of them being complete shite, to put it lightly. The publishing industry here is eh at best, so when we wander over to the "NZ AUTHORS" shelf in the library, most of them are written by old white guys featuring a bland white boy and his do
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really good for YA ! Not too focused on the romance, and good mythology ! I felt it was respectful towards New Zealand and its inhabitants - though it's just a feeling, I don't know enough about that topic to be sure. ...more
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kiwi
I love reading a book by an author who's not an idiot.

this book is so cool. it's all so believable that I don't even care to check if it's true I've just going to assume the mythology is based in reality.

I changed my mind I need to google one thing:
I am not wrong this author is so the shit.

I mean I love mythology, I'm mildly obsessed homer, to thor, to druid, to jesus. and nothing makes me happier than an understanding of meaning, and this this is it.
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Imaginary Adventures: October BOTM - Guardian of the Dead 16 11 Oct 30, 2015 09:19AM  
Good debut novel? 3 24 Jul 04, 2012 11:55PM  

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Karen Healey writes books about tough girls with brains and interesting boys with secrets. She likes nail art, superheroes, and musical soundtracks. She technically lives in New Zealand, but really lives on the Internet.

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“You knew what I was," he said, taking his hair back from his face, eyes wild with the will to make me believe. "You knew that my face is a lie, just pretending to be human. And you still wanted me, you could touch me, you could see what I am, the only one who knew and wanted me all the same, and you said I wasn't a --" his chest hitched. "Not a monster. I was going to tell you, and then I thought, well, I'm probably going to die in the underworld, so why can't I have this until then? I'm the stupid one; not you. I'm so sorry.” 7 likes
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