Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings by Tina Makereti

The books you love the most are often the hardest to review. That’s always been the case. Or the curse. To say I loved this book feels like an incredible understatement. It has stayed, pulsating, in the back of my mind days after I turned the last page. My thoughts constantly wander back to it, and I am left a little winded by the emotion of the story that overwhelms me each time.

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Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings has three main narratives running through. First is Mere’s, a young Māori woman living in 1880s New Zealand. She is on the cusp of discovering independence and love, at the cost of great sacrifice on her part. For she is in love with Iraia, the young Moriori man living on her father’s property as farmhand and all around helper. He is treated as someone lesser, an outsider, and must live with the stigma that is forced on people of Moriori descent. To cast her lot with him means giving up everything Mere has known.

In contemporary New Zealand are Lula and Bigs, twins born to their Māori mother and Pākehā (European) father. Lula has inherited her father’s pale skin, while Bigs resembles their darker skinned mother. Despite their fierce closeness from a young age, school yard taunts and real life eventually drive the two of them apart. The death of their mother might be the last saving factor of their relationship, and a chance to find out about a part of their heritage that has been buried for too long.

Linking these two is a nameless voice, a long lost soul flitting in between the lives of Mere and Iraia, and Lula and Bigs. It is heavy with sorrow and despair, but becomes infused with a certain strength as the story progresses.

Tina Makereti’s writing is beautiful. It is lyrical, but not flowery; it is delicate, but strong enough to carry the important stories that she’s weaving with it. I was especially taken with Mere and Iraia’s part of the story. They are both very young, and incredibly brave when they set off on their adventure, and I wanted to protect them from everything and anything that might crop up on their journey.Their story is a part of New Zealand history about which I am not very knowledgeable and I wanted to soak it all in.

Some facts (as gleaned by me, so please correct me if I’m wrong):

Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. The Moriori were the indigenous people of the Chatham,or Rēkohu Islands, a small group of islands off New Zealand’s west coast. They were a people who prized non-violence. When the Taranaki Māori colonized Rēkohu it ended in the genocide of the Moriori. Any survivors were taken back to the main land and made to work as servants and slaves. The erasure of their people brought stigma and discrimination, and Moriori descendants were forced to suffer these prejudices.

Buried history is obviously a pressing issue in this novel. Following the death of their mother, Lula feels compelled to discover more about this part of her family’s legacy. Bigs on the other hand, who has already formed a strong connection to his Māori background, finds these new developments unsettling. Makereti explores these contentions with subtle realism. Identity and family history are complicated and multi-layered, and Lula’s and Bigs’  reactions speak to that. I would have liked to see more discussion and interaction between the siblings about this topic. Lula seemed to wait years to be close to her brother again, when it does happen it is not how she envisions it.

On the other hand, Makereti stresses the importance of finding connections in unexpected places. After all, that is what family history is about. It is when she is in a London museum that Lula feels a tugging for home, and it is with newly discovered family members that she unearths a long forgotten past. Whatever she may have lost, Lula also has much to gain.

The third mysterious voice was also a compelling one for me. I enjoyed piecing the narratives together, and finding out how they all fit.Things become clearer page by page, like an image slowly crystallizing before your eyes.

I have seen reviews that mentioned it was slightly frustrating – the unknown third voice, its pace and its tone. The thing is, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings is one of those “wallowing” books. And by that I mean you, the reader, has to wallow in it. You have to soak it all in. It’s not a race to the last page to see how all the action is tied up. All the minutiae matters.  Soaking in all the details, immersing yourself in the lives of these characters. That is absolutely where the joy of this book lies. And that’s where the heartbreak is as well. I still have to hug this book to my chest every once in awhile. If you have read it, or are going to, I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. For those who are curious about this topic, Makereti suggests Moriori: A People Rediscovered by New Zealand historian Michael King.

Brother, who art thou?: “Lullaby” by Bernard Beckett

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Lullaby is a finalist for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adult Fiction. And it’s easy to see why. It opens with Theo, sitting in a hospital room with a therapist. His twin brother, Rene, has just been involved in an accident that has left him on the brink of death, with his brain severely damaged. Theo has been proposed with the choice of saving his brother. All he needs to do, in order to ensure that his brother will have a functioning brain, is allow the doctors to transfer a copy of his memories into that of his brother’s.

Without delving too deeply into the scientific realism of this premise (I am no neurologist), this book centers around questions of memory as individual identity, as well as memory as a collective constructed reality. These are intriguing questions and kept me hooked for the duration of the book. Memory is a fascinating, and frequently unreliable, thing. We rely on it so absolutely for our daily lives, and yet there are so many ways in which it fails us – sometimes even without our being aware of it. How many times, for example, have you revisited an event in the past only to find that you remember things differently to how your friends or family remember it? And how much value does our memory of a person’s behavior or personality influence our perception of them? And what happens when that memory s flawed?

As a young girl, one of the lobby security guards in the apartment building we lived in used to scare me. I don’t know what it was, but there was something about him that intimidated me. He picked up on this, and for his own amusement, used to try and scare me every time I had to pass him. I remember how he would laugh gleefully whenever I jumped or startled. I would dread having to come across him. In fact, I despised him so much I used to fantasize about him getting into all sort of mishaps. One that stands out the most is thinking, with relish, how he might have to fix a drain pipe, and imagining its contents raining down on him in a filthy deluge. It was immensely satisfying to the younger me. I remember mentioning this to my brother years later, only to have my brother remark that he had a similar “fantasy” as well. It struck me, then, how much our joint hatred of this man had culminated, from different processes, into a shared thought.It also strikes me that it could easily be the other way around – that my brother and I had discussed the best (worst) possible revenge to take the guard, and over time convinced ourselves that we’d thought of it on our own.

We believe our memories are our own, and our perceptions of the self is built on them. What happens then when those memories are inaccurate? And what happens when memories overlap, in all their inaccuracy? These are the questions Theo is forced to ask himself as he tries to decide on his brother’s fate. As Theo sits in a hospital room with a psychiatrist, talking of his past, we get to see how he and his twin brother played the usual twin pranks, spending entire days switching identities, convincing everyone else, and at times, even convincing themselves.

The frustrating thing, perhaps, about this book is that, while it asks a lot of questions, it doesn’t really answer many of them. Bernard Beckett is apparently known for his open-ended narratives. It’s not something that detracts from the whole but, personally, I would’ve liked a few answers sprinkled in there. Having said that, however, I will say this is an excellent and thought-provoking read, and I’d recommend it to everyone and their dog.

“Sometimes I felt crazy too.”

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Sylvie feels invisible. Her sister, “Calamity” Cate, is suffering from mental illness. It’s wreaking havoc on the family.Cate is lost in her nightmarish world, and her parents are both drained by this situation. Sylvie’s swept up into the eye of the storm, feeling far too much like a negligible speck. School isn’t much better, either, where she feels out of place and visible for all the wrong reasons. So, Sylvie decides to undergo a makeover. The new Sylvie will be bold and throw caution to the wind. More importantly, she’ll be noticeable. This, of course, doesn’t come without its own set of consequences.

I love how Kaeli Baker has created a flawed, but endearing character in Sylvie. She is absolutely in a difficult position; she is going through things that no one at her age should be going through alone. At the same time, she reacts in quite selfish ways, and is often oblivious to the goings-on around her. Her decisions are impulsive and misguided. There were times when I just wanted to reach in, grab her face, and command her to take care of herself. It’s heartbreaking to think about how many youngsters are out there, isolated in their experiences, and unable to vocalize their pain, or trying to externalize it in ineffective ways.

Living with mental illness is difficult, but this novel shows that this can also be true for those living with someone suffering from a mental illness. Cate’s mental illness is not at the center of the novel; it’s the effects of it that Baker focuses on, and it’s a good exploration. Watching Sylvie’s family struggle to keep it together is hard, but from the outsider perspective I had as a reader, at times it seemed almost inevitable. Their suppressed emotions break out in loud and explosive actions, or in quiet, insidious ways that eat away at each of them. It’s an honest exploration, and Baker does not try to cover anything up in pretty paper.

The interactions between the younger characters were a little less real for me, however. There were times when the dialogue felt a little unnatural and jilted. Some of the development also feels slightly rushed. I can appreciate that this is a shorter novel, however, and as such there’s only so much space to work with.

I think a lot of young readers will benefit from reading this. Not only does it highlight the importance of reaching out for help, it also encourages reaching out to help others. There isn’t much discussion about mental illness and adolescents, especially in the New Zealand school setting. This book takes step to change that.

“Bliss” by Katherine Mansfield – a breakdown

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Katerine Mansfield

Katherine Mansfield’s stories are like paper flowers. Seemingly fragile, oozing simplicity, but a closer look reveals the complexity that went into the construction, the precision and accuracy that achieves the deceptive simplicity that is characteristic of her stories.

Bliss centres around Bertha Young, thirty years old and resisting the inexplicable need “to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement.” There is no explanation for the extreme elation that suddenly invades Bertha as she makes her way home.

The stream of consciousness grips as tightly as this overwhelming joy has gripped Bertha. Mansfield really excels at this narrative form, and she knows just how much to put in, and how much to leave out.

“‘No, that about the fiddle is not quite what I mean,’ she thought, running up the steps and feeling in her bag for the key – she’d forgotten it, as usual – and rattling the letter-box. ‘It’s not what I mean, because – Thank you, Mary’ – she went into the hall.”

It’s so very life-like, this fractured thought process and Bertha springs into life so adamantly, and if she wasn’t real to you in the first paragraph, then she certainly is now. And it is this realness that’s so very captivating.

Mansfield’s stories are always tailored with the trappings of daily life – all the quotidian details that you don’t really pay attention to in your routinely adventures, but set within the context of the bigger picture they make a very rich tapestry indeed.

“Mary brought in the fruit on a tray and with a glass bowl, and a blue dish, very lovely, with a strange sheen on it as though it had been dipped in milk.”

I often refer to Mansfield’s writing as stop-and-smell-the-roses writing, because it feels like she’s urging you to take a moment and really look at the trivial details of life. And then she’ll paint them with a brush that will render them magical, almost gem-like in their sudden ability to shine where they didn’t before.

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She dots daily life with these fascinating details, and then brings you down to reality. There is gentle irony in the way she satirizes her own characters for fancying things that mightn’t be there.

“She hardly dared to look into the cold mirror – but she did look, and it gave her back a woman, radiant, with smiling, trembling lips, with big, dark eyes and an air of listening, waiting for something . . . divine to happen . . . that she knew must happen . . . infallibly.”

Everyone’s prone to a little whimsy, a little fantasizing, and none more so than Mansfield’s characters. More than the English teachers who analyze these stories, it’s the characters in them that infuse things with an overripe magic, and symbolize things left and right.

“At the far end, against the wall, there was a tall, slender pear tree in fullest, richest bloom; it stood perfect, as though becalmed against the jade-green sky. Bertha couldn’t help feeling, even from this distance, that it had not a single bud or a faded petal.

. . . And she seemed to see on her eyelids the lovely pear tree with is wide open blossoms as a symbol of her own life.”

On the beauty and perfection of this unassuming pear tree is what Bertha hinges her entire night. She and her husband will be entertaining dinner guests, a few close artistic friends, and “a find” of Bertha’s, Pearl Fulton. Mysterious, sophisticated, whom “Bertha had fallen in love with . . . as she always did fall in love with beautiful women who had something strange about them.”

And so, do we finally come to the source of Bertha’s ecstasy? Is it the strange Miss Fulton who has Bertha in such raptures, feeling the painful intensity of life? Mansfield never says so. Instead she points to more of Bertha’s wishful thinking as she imagines there’s a common feeling between herself and her newest guest, an understanding of just how wonderful this night is.

“But Bertha knew, suddenly, as if the longest, most intimate look had passed between them – as if they had said to each other: ‘You, too?’ – that Pearl Fulton, stirring the beautiful read soup in the grey plate, was feeling just what she was feeling.”

Moving through the steps of the dinner party, Bertha struggles to contain her glee. She watches her friends whom she loves, but knows that they can’t quite understand what she and Pearl are experiencing. The reader, too, is excluded from this bubble. We never quite know why Bertha is so ecstatic, though we are, at least, more clued in than her guests.

This scene is particularly exquisite, because it allows us to eavesdrop in the various tidbits of conversations that Mansfield dangles before us. We are at the dinner party, too, though we are privy to more than the others.

Bertha waiting for a “sign” from Pearl, believes it to be a momentous occasion when Pearl asks to see the garden, something “so exquisite on her part that all Bertha could do was to obey.” Finally, she can show her companion in this unique experience the axis on which this magical night spins: the pear tree.

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“How long did they stand there? Both, as it were, caught in that circle of unearthly light, and understanding each other perfectly, creatures of another world, and wondering what they were to do in this one with all this blissful treasure that burned in their bosoms and dropped, in silver flowers, from their hair and hands?

For ever? – for a moment? And did Miss Fulton murmur: ‘Yes. Just that. Or did Bertha dream it?”

And so we reach the home stretch. The day is about to close up again. Bertha has been flitting through it on imaginatively strung trapeze threads. She longs to tell her husband, who has only been ice towards Pearl Fulton, of her special new friend, of what they have shared, and the thought of being alone with her husband thrills and scares Bertha.

“For the first time in her life Bertha Young desired her husband.”

It seems that Bertha’s latent desires for Miss Fulton have manifested in an unlikely urgency for her husband. The pear tree now has a double meaning; with its full blossoms, reaching for the moon, it is no longer just a symbol for Bertha’s perfect night. The giddy day has culminated in this moment of sexual awakening.

And yet, Bertha will not be free to end her night with illusions. Life is not that generous.  Bertha Young, only a girl as her name suggests, farewells her guests, “feeling that this self of hers was taking leave of them forever”, for with the taste of desire she believes she has finally stepped into the adult world. Perhaps this is where she was heading, as a young girl giddily anticipates a milestone birthday, perhaps Bertha sensed that her next step into womanhood was nigh.

Womanhood, when it does arrive, is bittersweet. Because, secluded in the hallway, is beautiful Miss Fulton, more womanly and sophisticated than Bertha, in the arms of Bertha’s husband. It is a shock to both Bertha and the reader. Once Miss Fulton, too, leaves Bertha is left with her realization. All of the magic of the night is stripped away, all of the blissful ignorance shredded, and Bertha is only left with a world that she does not truly understand.

“But the pear tree was as lovely as ever and as full of flower and still.”

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Mutuwhenua (The Moon is Sleeping)

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So today’s the last day of Diversiverse, at least where I am, and I thought I’d quickly get in at least one of the posts I had planned for it.

Mutuwhenua is one of the first novels published by Patricia Grace, New Zealand’s first female Maori writer to ever be published. I actually read this one awhile back, but it’s one of those deceptively simple stories that manage to resonate loudly long after you’ve finished it.

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The power of this story is in the narration. It has a quiet, rhythmic tone to it that is almost soothing as you read. It is not a plot-driven story, it’s a character-driven one, and if you were to go in expecting the former you would be disappointed. The prose glides along in smooth waves, and it’s easy to sink into. It’s as if you’re being told the story by mouth. It conveys the melodic beat and rhythmic repetitions of a good conversation.

It’s a coming of age story about Linda, a young Maori girl growing up in New Zealand. But unlike other coming-of-age stories what I appreciated in this one was that Linda doesn’t enter a storm of “MUST BE AGAINST EVERYTHING MY PARENTS STAND FOR” in order to establish her individual identity. Yes, she does try to distance herself from them, and make an attempt at differentiating herself, but there is still an element of respect in there between Linda and her parents which I really appreciated.

As a young girl, she feels confined, acutely aware of the image that she can’t escape, as a young Maori girl. She comes to the harsh realization that there is a gap between herself and her European school mates.

“I was glad of the excuse, that last day of primary school, to run off without saying goodbye. Running home over the hills that afternoon I realised I was going towards the only place in the world that I knew. I was glad that afternoon of the excuse to cry and stamp my feet and blame my mother for everything.” (p. 24)

It’s heart-wrenching observing Linda reaching this realization. This fear clearly travels with her into adulthood, paralysing her whenever she feels she might allow Graeme, the young man she grows to have feelings for, access to the inner circles of her life.

My favourite part was her relationship with her family. As I’ve already said, it was refreshing to see a bildungsroman rooted in cultural identity depict a young protagonist who is willing to respect their family, and the elders in their life. Grace shows that it’s possible to assert your individuality while showing respect for your family and culture, and while acknowledging that you’re part of a bigger whole. It’s not an easy journey, but an important one.

“There was no light at all, it being the night of Mutuwhenua, when the moon is hidden, when the moon goes underground to sleep. And in the darkness my thoughts were a confusion, thinking of what the old lady had said to me, thinking of my father and of what the past had given me and of what the future held.” (p. 75)

Grace’s stories are very much about the daily life, but her writing is such that the ordinary ends up becoming the extraordinary. As a piece of realistic fiction, it’s a great read, and an important one, not least because it’s by one of New Zealand’s first female Maori writers.

The Virgin & the Whale by Carl Nixon

 

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“How to begin?

It is a perennial problem. Ever since the first campfires struggled to keep the clawed shadows of the forest at bay, storytellers have grappled with what combination of sound and meaning to set loose among the dancing firelight. Which words should be cast towards expectant faces?” (Chapter 1)

Sometimes you read a book that seems to pulse with life, and it pulses a little louder than others.

I’ve had a lot of free time over the past few months, and have spent much of it trudging to and from the library with an aching armload of books. I also started working at a book/gift store, and have been able to get my hands on a lot of reading copies of books. I’ve been doing a lot of reading.

But through all that reading this book manages to shine a little bit brighter in my mind than the others.

Carl Nixon tackles the expansive and ever-present theme of story-telling and the effect of words on life. It’s a tried and true tale. People love reading stories about how stories are powerful. People love reading about how stories affect the course of a life.

The Virgin & the Whale is unabashed in its praise of stories. It’s a story framed within a story – it leads you into the tale as if you were a child sitting at Nixon’s foot, well aware of the world he is about to weave, but happy to fall into it, anyway. It’s a concept that could have easily stumbled into the trite end of the spectrum, but doesn’t.

“My mother fell deeply in love with a man who had no memory.”

The novel is set in a small country in the Pacific South West in the early twentieth century – though it’s given a different name, it becomes clear that the country in question is New Zealand. Nixon disguises the landmarks and the characters with aliases. It becomes apparent as the novel progresses, that while the story is packaged with all the tapestries of fiction, it is in fact based on a true story. Maybe that’s why it resonates so well, though that is not the only reason.

Elizabeth Whitman, a nurse, is requested to undertake into her private care a soldier recently returned from war, with severe injuries and no memory of his identity. At the same time, Elizabeth is dealing with the fact that her husband is missing in the war, and, in order to keep up the spirits of her young son, Jack, she comes up with stories to tell him each night. Stories that bring comfort to both of them, stories that might help to ease the pain that would come if their worst doubts become reality.

“. . . she has, slowly, hesitantly at first, unsure if she is doing the right thing, but then with growing confidence, begun filling the emptiness with a story.” (Chapter 12)

Elizabeth decides to try the same method on the injured soldier, coaxing him out of his isolation with words. The words are not only a bridge between the two of them, but also one that gives the soldier a connection to this new blank reality.

Unable to dredge up any memory of his past, the soldier finds solace in building a new identity for himself, a new life. Of course, this comes at the expense of renouncing all those who inhabited his old life – his wife, Mrs. Blackwell, their old acquaintances – all of whom he can no longer remember, and thus, none whom he can claim. With words, he’s able to take back some of his power – but it’s a power that devastates his family and friends from his ‘past’ life. Nixon reveals how words have the power to create and sustain new life, but he doesn’t shy away from the fact that in building new worlds, we can sometimes choose to abandon the old ones.

“If Self is inextricably linked to the brain and the memories it holds, then what can be said of a man who has been left with his body intact but a brain as blank as a fresh fall of snow?” (Chapter 11)

I saw a post on tumblr recently that mentioned how someone might draw conclusions on your personality based on an act of yours that you might have forgotten – an act that acutely reveals your character. Thus, that someone will walk around knowing about a part of you that you don’t, because it’s no longer part of your memory. They possess a part of your identity that you didn’t even know you had.

It’s quite a chilling thought. I think we all like to pretend that we know the essential things about ourselves, but perhaps, an act that seems minute to us, might be momentous to another person, one on which they base their whole understanding of you. Even a small memory that is lost means an aspect of our identity that is lost.

Nixon carves the story so that it ends on an optimistic note – it is the bravery of Elizabeth, and the bravery of her memory-less soldier that is emphasized. It is the bravery of the two of them, who choose to embark on a new life together, based on their faith in their own exchanges, that ultimately resonates.

I know I’m not doing this book justice. Just know that if you read it, you will not be disappointed.

"Pyre of Queens – The Return of Ravana" by David Hair

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    “If you’re reading this work, then you are very likely me. 

    You know what I mean.

   I have come to believe that certain stories develop a life of their own. They are so powerful, so widely known, so much a part of our culture, indeed of our daily lives, that they become more than mere words. 

   Imagine, if you will, a tale that defines a people. It has heroes and villains, good and evil deeds, its very words are sacred to us. It is like a chess set, its pieces inhabited by the same souls, game after game. Or perhaps this tale is a living thing, a script that constantly seeks actors, and when it finds them, it inhabits those actors and possesses them utterly, finding new ways to express and re-express itself, time and time again. 

   What must it be like, to be one of those souls, doomed time and again to live the same life, over and over? Acting out the tale, glorifying it, enhancing it, though at great cost to themselves. Their whole existence a prison sentence, their fate to again and again live as a play-thing of an idea.

    But then, you know what it’s like, don’t you?”  

   It’s 769 A.D. in India and the court of King Ravindra is brimming with secrets. He is a hated king but many who wish to rebel are too afraid to do so for fear of being caught by the blood-thirsty soldiers at his finger-tips. Though there has been a secret plot to overthrow the king, many of those who were involved have been found out, tortured and killed. 

   Shastri, the Captain of the guards, is fearing for his life. He knows the king suspects him as the instigator of the plot, and he does not dare to show any compassion to his fellow conspirators, or reveal his true feelings for Darya, one of the King’s wive. 


    Aram Dhoop is the court poet, small and quiet, frightened and disgusted by the goings-on in the palace but too weak-willed to do anything. The only person who manages to stir any kind of flame within him is Darya. When he hears that she is to burn to death along with King Ravindra and the rest of his wives (seven in total) Aram decides that the time to act is now. In what is his bravest act yet, Aram grabs Darya before she is about to be flung onto the burning pyres and sets off blindly on a galloping horse, pursued closely by the very accomplished and able Shastri.  Following a rush of events, Shastri turns from foe to friend, and soon all three are on the run.

   Jumping forward to  2010, three teenagers – two boys and a girl –  find that the more often they come together, the more that time has a way of ripping around them, opening up to let images of the past escape. Soon, they’re fleeing ghosts from the past, and attempting to unravel the ancient secrets which have such strong hold over them. 

   All right, let’s get this out of the way: I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK!! It is far from perfect, I’ll admit,  and I am not blind to its flaws, but I absolutely loved it nonetheless. The premise is so interesting and unique – I mean, a retelling of the Indian epic Ramayana? With reincarnations and gutsy and intelligent adventurers to boot? And the hero a scrawny kid who loves English and writes poetry? Grabby hands everywhere. 

   All right. I’m calm. Somewhat. Maybe it’s because I haven’t come across many books based on Indian epics but I was excited when this one caught my eye in the library. The writing is concise – the author doesn’t beat around the bush. He has a story to tell and he tells it. The chapters alternate between 769A.D. India and 2010 India, but despite the switches I found myself easily falling into whatever time frame I was supposed to be falling into. 

   The characters seem flat at first, especially with the few, simple lines that the author sketches them with, but as the book progresses they flesh out, growing into more than just stereotypes and begin to take life. My favorite was definitely the protagonist Vikram – the scrawny schoolboy who’s the reincarnation of the court poet Aram Dhoop. They both start out as weak, almost sniveling, and whiny characters, but by the end displayed a strength that belied their reputation, especially Vikram. I might be adding yet another number to my long list of fictional crushes. Thanks a lot, David Hair. As if my sanity really needed that. 

   There’s a love triangle that occupies both the past and the present of this story. I am aware of the reputations that love triangles have in the world of YA, but it is quite well done here. It is clear that it is essential for the story, especially the ‘past’ part of the story. With the twenty-first century teenagers, it is not such an integral part of the story, and Vikram has a keen eye, keen enough to see that he’s fighting for something that’s not really there. It’s not a constant tug-of-war as it is with so many other YA novels and does not dominate the story. 

   The pacing of the story was brilliant. As I mentioned previously the chapters alternated between past and present, and the seamless manner in which it’s been done only becomes more evident when you reach the climax of the novel. At that point, both past and present are climbing in speed and action and I became even more embroiled in the story than I had been. There’s a lot of action, and much wielding of the swords, and aiming of the arrows – and me, well, I’m a sword and arrow type of girl. I love swashbuckling action! There’s just something about it that excites me to no end. A good fight is easy to become engaged in, I think, and this book definitely had a lot of that. 

   The backbone of the story is reincarnation and time repeating itself, and though the three protagonists are simply another version of the originals, it doesn’t feel as if they’re simply fated to do what they do. The narrative makes it clear that it’s the choices that differentiate people, and the present day versions of the historical figures manage to be fresh and are in no way bogged down by their past positions. 

   It’s a great action-packed read, with a dash of humor, romance, and horror. More than just a dash of the last, actually. There are dollopings of horror. DOLLOPINGS. Not exactly horror, but gruesome bloodshed, and vengeful ghosts – wait, that does equate horror, never mind. But it’s a great read, nevertheless, and I devoured it in a day, and now I can’t wait to read the sequels. 

   Sincerely,

     Lady Disdain