Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Review: Guardian of the Dead

When I first heard about Guardian of the Dead I was pretty stoked since I hadn't ever read a book set in New Zealand. Since then I've read Margret Mahy's The Changeover but if I had missed just a few details I wouldn't have realized that was even set in New Zealand. I'm not saying that a book needs to beat me over the head with how "foreign" it is, but the descriptions in there rather reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones' stories, set in a place that's slightly different and a bit English but nothing really remarking on. In Guardian of the Dead however the setting is a major player in the book and, considering I've had a hard time finding more than a few non-fiction books on New Zealand, it was a refreshing change of pace and delightful to read.

Guardian of the Dead
 The one on the top is the US cover and the one on the bottom is the Australian cover which I like more. Not entirely sure why, just not that fond of the American cover scheme and I suppose my inner photographer prefers images to be arranged according to the rule of thirds instead of halves. Anyway, I also found an interesting blog post about some of the trouble she had with her covers, glad that this all worked out for the best.

Summary: Ellie is off at boarding school for the year while her parents are touring the world and it's turning out to be even less fun she hoped for. She does have a good friend (Kevin), fight scenes to choreograph in the play (run by the lovely Iris), and even a mysterious boy to crush on (Mark). But everything is about to get a whole lot more mysterious before it starts making sense, between every myth a person believes in becoming true, legendary creatures from fairy tales being a lot more real than she guessed, and a classical journey to save their small world, Ellie is going to have to learn on the fly and learn to accept what she'd rather not.

The Good: In short, not only is the setting creative in the way it is used and influences the characters more than some of the characters do themselves but the characters themselves are very creative and innovative. None of this whining that "this can't be real!" just the acceptance that something is strange and if it's magic, well, it's magic. Even though I have very little in common with Ellie I found her to be incredibly sympathetic, Mark was much more 3D than I feared when I heard he was the "mysterious yet alluring boy," and I found myself cheering for Iris for being such an awesome side character*.

The Bad: I was expecting Kevin to get a little more screen time than he did and I'm a little puzzled by him. I heard some other people praising him for being a good representation of asexual characters in fiction but all he did was say very early on that he just had no interest in sex. That is honestly what an asexual person is, but does that one line make him such a well done asexual character? I mean, he spends a good deal of the book in a love enchantment which seemed oddly ironic but that certainly didn't help develop his character and I just would've liked a little more from him in the end. The ending itself bothered me a little as well. It wasn't the events or the people or anything major like that, it just felt a little off like we were forgetting some important plot point.

Ironically enough I had just gotten to the point in the book where they are talking about earthquakes and then I hear about the major Christchurch earthquake. Oddly enough it sounds like that has a happier ending than the earthquake the book was discussing but it was certainly freaky and made me hurry up to finish the book in case anything else like that happened. And now that I have finished the book I am certainly putting it on my book to-buy list, not sure when I'll get it since my manga and anime to buy lists are huge at the moment but that's what Christmas money is for, right?

Also, since I just got a job on campus (only six hours a week but) and that's in addition to my five classes and four clubs I'm probably going to slow down on the reviews. I actually still have a little backlog since I've been constantly reading/watching, well, all the free time I have (especially since I usually get sewing/knitting/eating done while I'm watching stuff) but I'll still be putting up one review, more like two or three probably, a week. I've got a huge backlog from the library and I'd hate to have to re-check them out later so I've got the incentive, just not quite as much time.

*Seriously, I think it was her line that she would beat Mark with her other shoe if he didn't tell her was going on and then you remember that she just threw her other shoe at an invading supernatural creature, finally someone whose on the same wavelength as me (as violent as that sounds).