Guardian of the Dead is a YA horror/supernatural novel by Karen Healey.
Seventeen-year-old New Zealander Ellie is getting through boarding school one day at a time. Though she's never had a tough time making friends before, here she just can't seem to gel with any of the other girls. But she does have Kevin, one of the male students. And their close bond is unshakable.
But then a stunningly beautiful, mysterious, and in Ellie's opinion, creepy woman enters their life and seems unusually focused on Kevin. What's even stranger is the way Kevin acts when she's around.
Of course, maybe the way he acts around her is no more odd than how Ellie acts around Mark, a handsome, quiet guy that only goes to the school during the day. In fact, maybe she should be more worried about how after they interact in any way, Ellie feels a little fuzzy headed and when trying to remember what exactly happened in their encounter gets a terrible migraine and throws up.
Or maybe she should worry about both.
Before she knows it, Ellie finds herself thrown into a world of revenge, magic, Maori mythology come to life, and a bloody battle for immortality.
And she may have a vital role.
Guardian of the Dead was instantly alluring and interesting with strong vibes of untold stories, especially as murder rumors abound and send chills down your spine. The disturbing details of the vicious killings throughout New Zealand and startling moments with the attractive, crush-worthy, mysterious Mark gives an ominous and suspenseful tone quickly. Plus, I loved Ellie and Kevin's frienship - an awesome best friend bond that feels authentic.
The lush New Zealand setting feels perfect for a scary story, a great contrast between beauty and fear. And then we have Ellie who has a likable, self-deprecating humor and relatable personality. Following her through the fog and confusion is compelling, frightening, and intriguing. You feel like there's always something more going on in the corner of your eye, something unexpected and unsettling. Perfect for a bibliophile that likes a little horror before bedtime.
Ellie finds herself in the midst of some pretty darn spooky legends, giving a breathless tone of terror and suspense. I'll admit that I did get a bit confused by the complicated mythology, but the grounded believability of Ellie is refreshing and kept me hanging in there.
A stunner of a surprise near the end took the romance side of the story (of which there is, I was remiss not to mention it thus far) and gives it one heck of a fairy-tale twist. I was flabbergasted by the turn of events!
Though unfortunately I do still feel like I need to reread Guardian of the Dead to sort out some plot details that must have flew over my head in a more tired moment, the intricate plot was clearly well thought-out and haunting.
Creepy? Check. Eerie? Check. Requires daylight to read without jumping? Double check.
Guardian of the Dead was heartbreaking, hopeful, empowering, bittersweet, magical, and majestic in scale. Truly quite the debut and an author to watch!
*I received a review copy of Guardian of the Dead from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.