By Narena Olliver
A great amount of thought and preparation has gone into the writing of this book. Narena Olliver has worked to fuse fact with fantasy and the result is a different and fascinating story set in this country about one thousand years ago.
Despite the title, it is not the new arrivals from Polynesia, the Tauhou under the leadership of Toi, who are at the forefront of the story, but the original race of Kaiwaiata, human-like light-skinned creatures reminiscent of the patupaiarehe of Maori tradition. Humans, they say, are closely related to them, though a mutation that occurred long ago – “like ourselves but not like ourselves”.
The matrilineal society of the Kaiwaiata is egalitarian. Though human-shaped, they nest in trees and some fly, either on the backs of huge eagles or they glide with the help of feathered suits. They are aligned with other living creatures, with which they cooperate and do not exploit. Moreover, through telepathy they communicate with other such peoples elsewhere, and precognition serves as protection from most danger.
With the new arrivals come kuri and kiore, all of which they find “breed so fast”. And there’s the Tauhou’s practice of setting fire to the forest. Together, the result is an immediate detrimental effect on the inhabitants – birds, particularly moa and other ground-dwellers, as well as on the Kaiwaiata.
It is not just the issues between the Kaiwaiata and the Touhou that keep the novel moving, but an added factor in the settling of old scores between the first set of canoes and the next.
The book ends quite abruptly without a real conclusion – no doubt because there is another one to follow – Te Tini o Toi, Book 2.
Though particularly accessible to New Zealand readers with prior knowledge of the history and traditions of this country, there are ample explanations throughout the text to guide someone new to the subject, plus a full glossary of perhaps less familiar words and terms used.
The disappointing aspect is that the author’s care taken with the preparation has been let down in the later stages of publishing. When the book has undergone more rigorous proofing to eliminate the many errors it will be a worthy addition to the fiction-folk-history of this country.
Te Tini o Toi, Book 2
Book 2 in the series carries on the story of the alternative people the Kaiwaiata, and the new arrivals from Polynesia, the Tauhou.
It is necessary to read Book 1 first, as this second work lacks sufficient explanation for a new reader to understand the situation and characters. In fact, it is not clear why this is separate – it would be better for the two to be made into a single book.
The sequel is shorter than Book 1, and though there is some development in the matter of relations between the two peoples, it does not add a lot.
There is an attempt at a liaison between the races, but the result is as the Kaiwaiata feared. The Tauhou proliferate and the natural environment suffers, particularly the birdlife with the moa at the top.
Again, this book ends abruptly, with a short, prosaic epilogue stating what happened to the various characters.
Author: Narena Olliver
Publisher: Icon Press
Available for Kindle from Amazon
Book 1: ASIN B00FIHCNVE
Book 2: ASIN B0IF325KRC