When I started reading Gaurdian of the Dead by Karen Healey the only thing I knew about Maori culture was what I saw in the movie The Whale Rider. When I found out that this book involved the myths of the Maori I wanted to read it and learn more.
In some cases this was true, there is a bit about the creation of the world and New Zealand in there, and them some about the Patupaiarehe. For an authors first book this one is not bad, some plot lines do get lost, and parts of the book kind of lag, but it is a first book.
One thing that struck me on reading this was that some of the myth stories are similar to other parts of the world. I have always wanted to know if the stories all came from the same place. Who started them?
There is also enough of a difference to keep them interesting and going. While she was not in the book much my favorite character was Hine-nui-te-po, I felt so sorry for her and what she went through with her Father\husband. She chose to be the guardian of the dead and to sleep to protect them.
For many parts of the book it could have been set in any developed English speaking country. What kept the story in New Zealand for me was the bit of slang, and the use of Maori words as common language. The last quote also struck me for the location of the book. I know that summer is Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere, but this quote just struck me as how natural it is from them, and how odd it is for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.
“She’d plucked out her own eyes to give her son the best chance she could.”
“‘Summer will be here in six months, and I’ll be home for Christmas. Lots of long, bright days. Barbecues. Walks on the beach.”