08 January 2013

Tuesday's Reveiw: Daughters of Fire by Tom Peek

When I read that this book picked up where James A. Michener's Hawaii left off,  I was all in.  Ever since I learned to read, I have loved reading about other eras and cultures, and from that perspective, the Michener classic was a double hit with me.  In fact, I count in among the best books I have ever read, and the beginning of my fascination with the Polynesian culture in general.  Since then I have read many books about Hawai'i and the Polynesian culture.

To say that this book picks up where Michener's  left off is a bit misleading.  Upon reading that, I expected a book centered on the history of Hawai'i from Statehood to the present.  What this book is, to my joy, is a top-notch contemporary fiction book about modern day Hawai'i and the cultural, economic, and political forces that are at play there.  It is truly a 'tale that illuminates the spirit of a native Hawaiian people struggling to keep faith the aloha.'

I'm not sure what Tom Peek's background is, or what compelled him to write a book about Hawai'i, but I am very glad that he did.  The story that he weaves of these 16 days on the Big Island of Hawai'i is a compelling one that will keep you turning the pages and stay with you after you finish.  It was easy to involve myself in the lives of the main protagonist; Hawaiian born anthropologist, Maile, who is trying to balance the "old ways" that she grew up with and modern life, and Mainland born astronomer who finds himself, not only in love with Maile, but caught up in a web of murder and politics.  I particularly enjoyed the way that the author used them, and the other characters in the book, to represent the various factions at play in today's Hawai'i.  Giving each faction a voice, and portraying them as themselves, neither good nor evil, but trying to fit in and pursue their vision of what Hawai'i is.

In addition to crafting great characters for this work, Peek's prose flows through the pages with all of the rhythm an feeling of the old Hawaiian legends.  In fact, these legends are the backdrop for the story that he tells.  I had read about several of the legends before in  other books, but thoroughly enjoyed the way that the author used them as a backdrop for his story, giving the story as a whole a truly Hawaiian feel.  In short, the combination of story and legend transported me, making me feel that I was actually on the island, dealing with the problems of clashing cultures.

In the end, I really struggled with the rating for this book, and would love to have given it 4.5 stars.  I ended with giving it 4 stars as it did not quite hit me the way that Michener's work did.  Nonetheless, it was highly enjoyable and gets a huge recommendation from me.  In fact, I think this one is a  treasure and definitely deserves more exposure and should garner many more readers.  

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