"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 abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie's circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, "You need it. It will save your soul." Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality.
There's a lot of promise but too much ground covered and too delayed a reward in this boarding school drama turned eerie fantasy. Set in debut author Healey's native New Zealand, the narrative follows snarky 17-year-old Ellie Spencer as she works on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with her asexual best friend, while stalking Mark, an enigmatic crush, and worrying about a string of recent murders. What starts out as a simple whodunit soon morphs into a surprising blend of magical realism and ancient Maori mythology involving a magic mask, Mark's mind-controlling charm bracelet, and beings of weird ageless beauty who live in the mist, shaking up Ellie's view of the world. While Healey's prose is skilled and her characters well-formed (Ellie is an especially charismatic heroine), minor plot threads drop off such as Ellie's mother's cancer and the process through which the deeper story is revealed (a battle for survival between a small group of human warriors and the fairy people, also called patupaiarehe ) feels frustratingly drawn out. By contrast, the thrilling last third of the novel, dedicated to the climactic battle, seems underdeveloped. Ages 12 up.