I approached this book, the fourth in the Aotearoa series, with some trepidation, having not read any of the previous three. However, Hair does an admirable job of catching new readers up without boring familiar readers.
I was immediately drawn in to the story, which pulls off the remarkable feat of blending New Zealand mythology and history with tikanga contemporary fiction, while remaining readable and entertaining.
Book one, The Bone Tiki, is now top of my reading list.
The series is set between contemporary New Zealand and its parallel counterpart Aotearoa, where mythology and magic are brought to life along with historical characters such as Governor Grey and Captain Hobson. We are led to understand that the whole world exists in this parallel universe, but (thankfully, from the sounds of it) only magical Aotearoa is explored.
In this book the hero, Matiu Douglas, a trainee tohunga ruanuku or ‘adept’, is forced into a wary alliance with former enemy and condemned warlock Donna Kyle. With a shared desire to capture and destroy Donna’s dangerous and formidable father, Asher Grieve, they travel to Aotearoa’s Bay of Islands, accompanied by Matiu’s friend Damien, and a young seer, Everalda. Like historical Russell, Aotearoa’s Kororareka is the ‘hell-hole of the Pacific’ and the perfect hide out for Grieve and his makutu cronies. The resulting mayhem includes the theft of the original Tiriti and an encounter with Hone Heke and his warriors. Further complicating matters are Matiu’s old feelings for Tania, a girl/taniwha, and growing relationship with the seer Emerald. In this dangerous world there are many opportunities for Matiu to wrestle with the concepts of justice and utu.
This series is a fantastic introduction to New Zealand history and mythology. My only small complaint was the ending – Justice and Utu is clearly setting the scene for book five. I’ll certainly be waiting for it!
Reviewed by Renée Boyer-Willisson, book lover and Booksellers NZ Facebook fan
Justice and Utu
by David Hair
Published by HarperCollins