To mangle a line from the movie Zoolander, New Zealand is very hot right now. Our actors and actresses are on the big and small screens in the US, and our directors making waves with giant blockbusters and indie darlings. And, of course, New Zealand has produced a number of amazing authors and stories – many of which, unfortunately, don’t seem to be as well-known as they deserve to be.
While a number of these fantastic stories are more European in their fantasies, David Hair’s The Bone Tiki makes use of New Zealand’s rich cultural heritages to create something that – in a YA fantasy/paranormal market dominated by creatures such as vampires, weres/shapeshifters and Celtic fae – comes across as feeling very fresh and new. The ghost world – referred to in text as Aotearoa – is a brilliant concept, an amazing blend of magic and New Zealand’s history, and that historical presence made what would have been a very boring and short1 journey part of a quest – it takes a lot longer to get somewhere if you’re stuck in a time where your mode of transport is horse and carriage, not a car.
Protagonist Matiu (Mat) is a delight to read; his internal conflict about coming to terms with who he is, especially with regards to his dual heritage, and his journey to learn more about where he comes from. His relationship and interactions with Kelly and Wiri are also a delight to read, while Kelly and Wiri stand strong as characters – Wiri especially, with the background I cannot give for fear of spoilers, is an interesting character. The Bone Tiki would be seriously lacking something if he were any different from the way he is. While the villains come across as a little flat at times (but are still most definitely menacing), Matiu and his friends come across as vivid and powerful.
One minor quibble I did have is the lack of a glossary in the back of the book. While I was already familiar with the majority of words (and was able to remember the rest, as explanations were also given in text), other readers obviously might not be. Terms and situations are explained in the text itself, but the ability to flick to the back and be reminded of meanings forgotten or confused would still be something highly valued. The Bone Tiki‘s sequel, The Taniwha’s Tear does remedy this situation, but it is still something that must be noted.
If you are looking for something that is a little bit different from the current trends of YA fantasy, and if you can get your hands on a copy, definitely check out The Bone Tiki. It’s fun, it’s fresh, and it earns itself four and a half stars from me.