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Reviewed by Cassidy Grace
Opening sentence
It's not a rebellion to try and keep what is already yours.
This novel is set in Taranaki during an unsettling time in Aotearoa's history. It weaves and incorporates both a tikanga and te ao Māori worldview through the character Matāria and a settler perspective through Frances in the 1860s.

Keenan, through her writing, builds compelling characters. The stand out character for me was Matāria who was captured and taken as a slave in Waikato and had returned to Taranaki with a limp, married to a white man. She struggles with fitting in, her identity and belonging throughout the novel. Keenan incorporates the use of Māori legends, gods, tikanga and contrasts it to the assimilation some Māori faced through the character Matāria.

The setting feels realistic to the time and if you have ever been to the Taranaki region, these places will resonate with you. These can include Devon Street, Paritutu Rock, or obviously the elusive maunga itself, Taranaki.

This novel paints a picture of what it was like to live in colonial New Zealand and gives a detailed description of how these two worlds have collided, not always for the better. As an Aotearoa history nerd, I then went on to do additional research about the Taranaki Wars and watched the RNZ documentary about Waitara.
Publisher: Penguin Random House
ISBN: 9781776950812
Format: Paperback
Publication: 2024
Ages: 16+
Themes: New Zealand wars, whānau, belonging