Usually, I refuse to read books offered to me by their authors because I dislike too much feeling obliged to write a review, even less within a given time, but I made an exception for Ancient Guardians: The Hawaiian Legend of Sharktooth and Hawkseye by Kanani Hurley. The fact that she promoted her novel as Hawaiian folklore and mythology roused my curiosity, and despite me, I asked her to send me a copy. The book arrived about a month ago with a friendly covering letter and two sample bags of – most delicious – macadamias from Hawai’i.
Already at first sight I felt that the author probably had younger readers than me in mind when she wrote her novel. This is because its cover reminds me of the one or other children’s book that I had ages ago. Each chapter is introduced by black-and-white ki’i or images imitating ancient petroglyphes that can be found all over the Hawaiian Islands and necessarily looking like what we call today “primitive” or “naïve” art from the modern Euro-American point of view. It’s a nice idea and I like the ki’i. For the rest, I believe that above all teenagers and young adults may love this novel and its planned sequels, while at my age I find it a bit difficult to relate to the child heroine.
Kawehi, usually called Wehi, is a girl of about ten years living in a house on the island of Kaua’i with her parents and her adored older brother Kahoku. Her life is happy and carefree, not to say paradisiacal, until the first school day after summer vacation when Kahoku goes surfing with friends and in an attempt to save one of them drowns in the sea. The family is devastated, even more so because it seems odd to them that an outstanding surfer and swimmer like him should have died like this, but then the water was quite rough that day and tragic accidents happen. For Wehi her brother’s death is particularly hard and she reproaches herself for not having warned him in the morning when she had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. After the funeral Grandpa Ke Ali’i does his best to console or rather distract Wehi telling her the old Hawaiian legend of the ‘aumākua, the guardian spirits of the Hawaiians in the shapes of shark, owl and hawk, as a bedtime story. From this point the rather conventional family saga turns into a captivating fantasy thriller because Wehi and her entire family are forced to deal with a band of malicious ‘aumākua seeking their lives. And in due course old as well as new family ‘aumākua appear to protect its members.
To my great regret Ancient Guardians: The Hawaiian Legend of Sharktooth and Hawkseye by Kanani Hurley isn’t a stand-alone-novel, but the first part of a series. However absorbing the plot of this first volume may be, the cliff-hanger at the end leaves me disappointed, dissatisfied and annoyed. It’s not just that I’ve never been particularly fond of book series. I believe that the loose end is too important, but maybe this is only how I feel about it. At any rate, Kanani Hurley did an excellent job interweaving legend with fiction as well as personal experience not to say grief and I hope that she’ll see the remaining parts of the series published as well.
The Hawaiian Legend of Sharktooth and Hawkseye
by Kanani Hurley