David Hair’s first novel, The Bone Tiki, is an impressive and engaging debut, set in the author’s native New Zealand.
Mat Douglas is the young protagonist and hero of the novel, a seemingly typical, ordinary teenage boy, half Maori-half European, bored with life, saddened by his parent’s separation, and a bit of a loner.
As the novel opens, Mat is obliged to go to a funeral wake with his Maori father, and goes reluctantly, expecting nothing more than to be bored. Things take a totally unexpected turn, however, when Mat acts on an impulse that is far too strong to ignore, and removes the tiki – a pendant – from around the neck of the dead body.
From this moment on, Mat finds himself plunging ever deeper and deeper into an adventure that he never expected, and that gets progressively more dangerous and more surreal. For what Mat doesn’t realise is that the New Zealand in which he lives has a parallel world, a world of spirits and demons and heroes and dreams and mysteries. Along with Kelly, his gutsy girl-clown friend and the stray dog Fitzy who adopts them and protects them through thick and thin and much more, this unlikely trio set off across 21st century New Zealand to escape from the gang trying to get their hands on the tiki. As they plunge ever further into the power of the tiki – for powerful indeed it proves to be – the three friends travel back and forth between their current world of junk food and cars and small country towns, to the New Zealand of yore, and even further back into the world of Maori spirits and legends.
The book is lyrical, descriptive and a cracking good read. It is also a love song to the lost world of Maori legend.
If there is one small critique, this reviewer would have liked a glossary of Maori words, which are used frequently throughout the book.
“The Bone Tiki” is published by Harper Collins, in paperback.