Karen Healey’s debut novel, Guardian of the Dead, takes place at a boarding school in New Zealand, where Ellie Spencer is living away from home for the first time. As the novel begins, she seems concerned with normal teenage pastimes—settling into a new school environment, getting a bit tipsy with her friend Kevin, becoming involved in a play and catching glimpses of handsome day student Mark Nolan, who inspires daydreams as she sits in her Classics class.
The fantasy elements of the story evolve slowly, and Ellie herself is surprised by her increasingly intense interactions with Mark. When she literally runs into him, she experiences a physical shock, realizing that “the perfect planes of his pale face had rearranged themselves into something frightening.” But as unsettling as her encounters with Mark become, Ellie finds herself turning to him for help when her friend Kevin seems to be in danger from a mysterious woman named Reka. In her efforts to save Kevin, Ellie must learn to trust her own emerging powers as well as the world Mark opens for her—a mythological world populated by mist-dwelling Maori fairy people, known as the patupaiarehe, who need human lives to gain immortality. The incredible battle that follows tests Ellie’s commitment to her friends, her country and her growing love for Mark.
Guardian of the Dead will appeal to readers who are fans of young adult authors such as Holly Black and Libba Bray. And without a doubt, Healey will soon have many fans of her own.