It’s been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion – the Order – has taken its place.

In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand – a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don’t know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy’s only real friend, her ruinmark – or runemark, as he calls it – is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else…

Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.

Gollancz

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

I was somewhat surprised to be sent what is a sequel of sorts to The Gospel of Loki, because when I reviewed that work back in 2014, I made it quite clear that I didn’t think much of it. But, in my opinion, Runemarks is a far better book, and far more enjoyable. There are far fewer jarring anachronisms, and the story is much stronger in many ways.

That story is set in an indeterminate future, five hundred years after Ragnarok. Maddy Smith has a ruinmark on her hand, and runes signify magic. But the Order is deeply opposed to magic of any sort. You can see where this is going… I have to say that I am heartily tired of the “Organized Religion is a front for Evil” trope, but it is pivotal to the story in this case, and that story is both well-structured and entertaining. Of course the Norse gods are meddling in human affairs again, but there is a lot more to it than that, lots of plot-twists and deception, and it all comes together in a spectacular climax. Or almost, because I suspect that the author loses control around about there, and some things don’t quite work. But there are some fine ideas on the nature of Order and Chaos, and of Hel itself. The prose flows, and produces some very quotable lines…

“So what you’re saying is . . . I shouldn’t play with fire,” she said at last.
“Of course you should,” said One-Eye gently. “But don’t be surprised if the fire plays back.”

So what we have here is a well-written, cleverly plotted Norse fantasy with just a touch of satire. A B+ this time, I think!

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A Maori Word a Day offers an easy, instant and motivating entry into the Maori language. Through its 365 Maori words, you will learn the following:

– English translations
– Word category, notes and background information
– Sample sentences, in both te reo Maori and English

Exploring the most common, modern and contemporary words in use today, A Maori Word a Day is the perfect way to kickstart your te reo journey!

Raupo

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Lee Murray

I was delighted to review copy of A Māori Word a Day by Auckland University teacher and translator, Hēmi Kelly. A Kiwi writer myself, I’m keen to include more te reo in my work, so this one-a-day teaching tool comprising a selection of commonly used terms looks to be the perfect text to keep on my desk. The beginning of the book includes information about pronunciation and there is a handy index of all the 365 terms at the back. In between, each page is dedicated to a single word arranged alphabetically and printed in bold 14-point text with the English definition printed below. The text is surrounded by lots of white space to make the word pop. Finally, each word is used in three sentences to highlight its meaning(s).

But what’s interesting about A Māori Word a Day is the cultural story the words tell when viewed together with their definitions and their explanatory example sentences. For example, the first word in the book is yes, which makes sense since it provides an affirmative start to the book and to our learning. It’s a simple word; one we use multiple times a day. And surely it is culturally significant that when we turn to page 2, the second word is ice-cream? With a strong dairying history, New Zealanders certainly love their ice cream. Day 7’s lesson is an eye-opener. The word is arā, which I gather is somewhat like the French term voilà, meaning there, over there, there it is, there they are. But it’s the explanatory sentences which are the most revelatory:

Kei hea te raumamao? Arā, kei mua i tō ihu!

Where’s the remote? There, in front of your nose!

Arā tō tatou waka.

There’s our ride.

Arā te waha papā e haere mai ana.

There’s the big mouth, heading our way.

“There’s the big mouth, heading our way.” Already, I’m getting the feeling that Kelly loves the language and wants us to have fun with it. I particularly loved page 194 where the word is pani ārai rā or sunblock and the sample sentence is:

Pania tō mata kit e pani ārai rā, kei rite koe kit e koura.

Put sunblock on your face or you’ll end up looking like a crayfish.

Sometimes though, the lesson is sombre, for example on day 38, when we learn the word hiko:

I a au e tupu ake ana, karekau he hiko i tō mātou whare.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have power in our house.

This page includes a tiny vignette where we learn that the word ‘hiko’ or lightning, became the word for electricity when electric lights were introduced to the country in the nineteenth century. There are several such vignettes in the book, either to provide some social and historical context, or just some helpful tips. In Māori trousers (tarau) and hope (tūmanako) are always singular, for example.

But Kelly’s choices affirm that the language is alive and modern, like this helpful sentence on page 22:

Tonoa mai au hei i te Pukamata.

Friend request me on Facebook.

And this one, on page 126.

Kua wareware i a au te kupu huna!

I’ve forgotten the password!

A Māori Word a Day won’t teach you Māori, but it might inspire you to kickstart your te reo journey, which, it seems, was Kelly’s intent all along. And on that note, I’ll leave you with the entry on page 337:

Whāia ō wawata kia tutuki rā anō i a koe.

Pursue your dreams until you achieve them.

Lee Murray is a ten-time winner of New Zealand’s prestigious Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction, fantasy and horror. Her titles include the bestselling military thriller Into the Mist and supernatural crime-noir Hounds of the Underworld (co-authored with Dan Rabarts). She is proud to have co-edited eight anthologies, one of which, Baby Teeth, won her an Australian Shadows Award in 2014. She lives with her family in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Find her at leekiwi.info

Move over Star Wars! This is a superb space opera. Humans and hybrids and strange new creatures fight for survival on Earth and across the galaxies. A superb space adventure from a fresh new voice. In our future worlds the Administration rules the Sphere of Humankind, the Games Board sanctions and funds wars and conflicts, and the Haulers’ Collective roams the space routes like the caravanners of old. Marko and his crew of fellow soldier-engineers are sent to investigate an unknown planet. When they encounter strange artefacts and an intelligent but aggressive squid species, they are forced to embark on a perilous journey far from the Sphere. they will have to survive not only other alien encounters but also their own Administration’s deadly manipulations. Political factions and galactic media moguls vie for power … and money.

HarperVoyager Australia

Purchased from an Amazon Reseller

Reviewed by Jacqui

I suppose that’s what you get when you read an on-going series out of order. I read Onyx Javelin first, and I was confused when Marko and the Basalt crew turned up with little introduction. Well, here is the start of their story and it’s a good one. It begins on Nova Hawaii where a deep-sea survey identifies underwater ruins. Then the R&R base there is attacked by strange aliens from out of the sea…

Some of the characters, especially Captain Longbow, felt underdeveloped. Wheeler’s prose is not the best; it doesn’t always flow, and is occasionally stilted. But, I can forgive those flaws for the sheer exuberance of the author’s science fiction creativity that bursts from page after page.

New Zealand has a huge range of backcountry huts, most of which are available for public use. Some can sleep 80 people, while others are tiny two-bunk affairs with not even room to stand up in. They are located in our mountains, on the edges of fiords, our coastlines and lakes, beside rivers, in the bush and on the open tops. Together they form an internationally unique network of backcountry shelter, and these huts, so often full of character and history, are fantastic destinations in their own right.

A Bunk for the Night offers a guide to over 200 of the best of these huts to visit. This inspirational book has been written by Shaun Barnett, Rob Brown and Geoff Spearpoint, the authors of the seminal, best-selling history of New Zealand’s backcountry huts Shelter from the Storm.

Featuring well-known huts from the main tramping areas in both the North and South islands, the authors have also scoured the country for other interesting huts in out-of-the-way places, such as those in the Bay of Islands, on Banks Peninsula, in the Whanganui hinterland, the dry ranges of Marlborough and Stewart Island/Rakiura. This is a wonderful smorgasbord of must-visit huts, and an essential book for anyone who enjoys the great outdoors.

Potton & Burton

Supplied by Potton & Burton

Reviewed by Jacqui

The back country of New Zealand is sprinkled with cabins where a weary traveller may find a roof for the night (and sometimes little else). Some require booking and payment in advance, others are free to use. All this, and more is explained in the introduction.

The authors have selected some two hundred or so from the nearly thousand huts, most administered by the Department of Conservation, which they consider the best, and described them in some detail. Each description includes a heading with the location, the number of bunks, heating, and facilities.

This is followed by some paragraphs explaining what makes the particular hut interesting, perhaps something about the location, or about its history, and often how to get there. Each is accompanied by a colour photograph; and I suspect that is what will most likely draw people, especially those who are not trampers, to look into this book.

It’s obvious that this book is a labour of love from a trio of good keen kiwi blokes who really enjoy getting away from it all. It is not intended to be a book for those whose idea of travel involves aeroplanes and motor cars. This is a book for the person who hikes, who travels on their own two feet into the real New Zealand that lies far beyond the noise and the bright city lights. For me, the appeal is in the excellence of the photography and the stories.

The incredible true story of William ‘Bully’ Hayes, the so-called ‘Pirate of the Pacific’: a story that separates the myth from the man.

Famous throughout the Pacific, from the US to Australia and all points in between, Captain Bully Hayes has been the inspiration for writers ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson to James A. Michener and Frank Clune. Rousing films have been based on his life, and his name adorns bars and hotels all over the Pacific.

But the truth is both less noble and more intriguing than the myth. The Hayes of legend was a product of the popular press at the time, the construction of editors who were determined to create a romantic figure to feed their readers’ appetites. This, the first proper biography of this legendary nineteenth-century figure, simultaneously sorts the facts from the fantasy and recounts an amazing true story of a genuine rogue and adventurer, against the backdrop of the Pacific during the great age of sail and trade.

HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

William Henry Hayes, better known as Bully Hayes. A name famous, or infamous, across the Pacific. It’s hard to go far out there without tripping over some reference or other to him, sly asides of piracy, shonky deals, and the whiff of romance and swashbuckling. Every ocean has its ne plus ultra bounder, and the Pacific’s is Bully Hayes.

 The problem with any detailed account of Hayes is that there is a paucity of detail surrounding much of his life. Druett does the best she can with material, cross-checking gossip with known facts, weaving a tale that is both greater and less than the romantic melodrama attached to the name. It is likely he was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1828 or 1829 and served for a period in the US Navy. He is first reported regarding the capture of a notorious American pirate Eli Boggs near Hong Kong. The two salient features that remain are his charm, which many commented on, and his ability to escape creditors and have his shipping business arise like the phoenix when all seemed lost. Even his death was barely attested.

This is not to say that he always operated as a rogue, nor a seafarer. Hayes spent a considerable period in the New Zealand colonies, engaged in inn-keeping and entertainment before the fickleness of fortune drove him back to merchant shipping. He also had a number of wives. However, as divorce was a simple affair in the mid-nineteenth century, several of these relationships were probably bigamous. That said, he was no different to many in the colonies.

Druett writes with style and tries to keep the known facts foremost. Where this is not possible, she presents the accounts, discounts obvious contradictions before offering the most probable explanation. By keeping to this formula, Druett’s methodology is transparent, and we are informed of the hazards of biography where solid data is deficient.

I found this an enjoyable read and hope to see more of Druett’s work in future.

Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…
Malcolm’s father runs an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.
He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust–and the spy it was intended for finds him.
When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, Malcolm sees suspicious characters everywhere; Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a dæmon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl–just a baby–named Lyra.
Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make chocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.

Random House Children’s Publisher UK

 Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Maree

This is the backstory of Lyra Belacqua, also known as Lyra Silvertongue, the heroine of Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials trilogy. This is the first volume of her story. As a baby she is introduced as being left with the nuns near Oxford. When a major flood threatens the south of England, she is rescued by the book’s protagonist, eleven-year old, Malcolm Polstead and his friend Alice. They have to make their way to safety pursued by the villainous Bonneville and Consistorial Court of Discipline, who want Lyra. This is all to do with the Dust, which Lord Asriel studies and which seems to be a significant component of matter in the idea of entwinned matter and spirit. Spirit being represented by the daemons animal spirit creatures everyone has.  What do you do with a baby who is destined to be the 0catalyst to change the way the world works? With no one they can trust they have to find Lord Asriel, Lyra’s father, so they can take Lyra to Jordan College Oxford and Lord Asriel can ask for Scholastic Sanctuary for the child.

A must-read for fantasy fans both young and old.

In this provocative, startling book, Robert D. Kaplan, the bestselling author of Monsoon and Balkan Ghosts, offers a revelatory new prism through which to view global upheavals and to understand what lies ahead for continents and countries around the world.

In The Revenge of Geography, Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers of the near and distant past to look back at critical pivots in history and then to look forward at the evolving global scene. Kaplan traces the history of the world’s hot spots by examining their climates, topographies, and proximities to other embattled lands. The Russian steppe’s pitiless climate and limited vegetation bred hard and cruel men bent on destruction, for example, while Nazi geopoliticians distorted geopolitics entirely, calculating that space on the globe used by the British Empire and the Soviet Union could be swallowed by a greater German homeland.

Kaplan then applies the lessons learned to the present crises in Europe, Russia, China, the Indian subcontinent, Turkey, Iran, and the Arab Middle East. The result is a holistic interpretation of the next cycle of conflict throughout Eurasia. Remarkably, the future can be understood in the context of temperature, land allotment, and other physical certainties: China, able to feed only 23 percent of its people from land that is only 7 percent arable, has sought energy, minerals, and metals from such brutal regimes as Burma, Iran, and Zimbabwe, putting it in moral conflict with the United States. Afghanistan’s porous borders will keep it the principal invasion route into India, and a vital rear base for Pakistan, India’s main enemy. Iran will exploit the advantage of being the only country that straddles both energy-producing areas of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Finally, Kaplan posits that the United States might rue engaging in far-flung conflicts with Iraq and Afghanistan rather than tending to its direct neighbor Mexico, which is on the verge of becoming a semifailed state due to drug cartel carnage.

A brilliant rebuttal to thinkers who suggest that globalism will trump geography, this indispensable work shows how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century’s looming cataclysms.

Random House

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

Ever looked at the map and wondered why so many wars occur in certain places? Why empires, ancient and modern, craved control of certain geographic spots, or tried to deny them to their enemies? Robert D. Kaplan claims he has the answer: geography. Which actually isn’t a silly idea: geographic features, such as rivers and mountains, funnel movements and route planning. It is better explained by the subtitle – What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate.

The book is divided into three parts: Visionaries, The Early Twenty-First Century Map, and America’s Destiny. Visionaries deals with how historians and commentators have constructed maps to explain geopolitics. The Early Twenty-First Century Map extrapolates various geopolitical situations and examines them as they may play out in the future. The interpretation, however, is through the lens of American interest. America’s Destiny examines the United States’ backyard, the Caribbean littoral and North America, and posits several scenarios to shock a more active governance of the region from Washington.

Make no mistake, this book is aimed at a US audience. My impression was this audience was not Joe Blow, but the decision makers. Due to the US-bias in the interpretive chapters, I found the earlier chapters on historical geopolitical concerns to be more interesting. This is not to say the interpretations were dull, just the seemingly relentless drive to explain what the US should do in territories well beyond its borders got tedious after a while. But that’s only my opinion.

On the whole, this is a good book, and I can recommend reading it.