(My previous review of Te Kererū Book 1 – The Nest is here).
“Te Kererū” is the Māori name for the native New Zealand wood pigeon, a beautiful and tasty bird. When three-year-old Katherine Taylor, a “Pākehā” (white person) is orphaned by a massive landslide, she is adopted by the regional Māori chief–and by the village and its people. Given the nickname Te Kererū, little Kate is different, quiet, mysterious, apparently the proverbial “old soul.” But the book subtly hints she’s something more than this, something bigger…”
I was notably enthusiastic about S.G. Smith’s first novel, part one of what promises to be a long and fascinating journey. In Book 2, we follow Kate during her transition from girl to the edge of womanhood, learn a lot more about New Zealand society and Māori culture and life, and get deeply into the fascinating world that the author has created from the elements of the real New Zealand and her imagination
The world of Te Kererū is, as the author refers to it, “speculative fiction,” with the Māori group/clan and its village and the nearby city and lands specifically not closely based on any real life example. It seems to me to be a sort of idealized depiction, what could, and may, be in the future. I began to realize more as I read this second book that Kate is an archetype, a Stranger in a Strange Land who becomes embedded in a different culture and (perhaps?) brings new perspectives and a new integration of different worlds.
But this book is a sort of serial, bearing a resemblance to the great old movie houses where the audience come back every Saturday and watched another episode, with new revelations and resolution of some issues, followed by new complications.
In this installment the big complication is Kate’s budding womanhood, but with surprising and important differences from the usual and well-worn tropes we’ve seen in a hundred Hollywood movies. Kate is exceptional, in some ways brilliant, wise beyond her years, but also very introverted and some might even say mildly “autistic.”
In fact, I’m as fascinated by Kate as by any character I’ve read in fiction for a long time. We learn a lot about her, but somehow most of it seems external, the keen observations of others. There is internal dialogue and descriptions of Kate’s thinking, and yet even after two books Kate is still something of a mystery to me, and I like that. She seems destined for something big–but what?
The author has skillfully built a a truly interesting world, and a woman, that I want to find out much more about. And that’s my definition of a good book.
Te Kererū Book 2 – Shaking the Nest on GumRoad includes Book 1 as a package deal, so you don’t need to worry if you haven’t read the first volume. Highly recommended.