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Reviewed by Katrina Sylva, Deputy Principal, Whangārei Girls'
Opening sentence
Kia ora, e hoa mā! Howzit going?
Mark Abbott has conceptualised a post-apocalyptic Aotearoa in which the strengths of Atua Māori have seeped from the ancient lands and become enmeshed in the evolution of the population, granting humans their super-natural powers.

Though this book can stand alone, I would advise reading book one first. As a reader who had not read the first book in the series, I often felt like I was missing a bit of context or backstory.

The graphic novel format will appeal to pre-teen, teen and young adult readers. The characterisation and illustration work together to represent the key strengths and concepts from Atua Māori that the characters embody. Some of the nuance and depth of the Atua and the mātauranga their stories explore is lost in these representations. That need not necessarily be a negative as readers and teachers can use the characterisations and illustrations as a launching point to a deeper exploration rather than seeking to uncover layers of deeper meaning within this text.

Being a middle aged woman, I'm not representative of the target reader so I asked my teen son his opinion. Finn (aged 14, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kuri) felt that this graphic novel was engaging and would be popular as an individual read amongst his Year 9 peers or a class reader for intermediate or late primary students. He was unsure about the taniwha representations which more closely resemble dragons in the Chinese illustrative tradition and were represented as malevolent. This does not resonate with his, or my, understanding of the pūrākau relating to taniwha. Therein I think lies a good example of the limits of this text. It's inspired by, but not steeped in mātauranga, and the layers and depths of meaning of the pūrākau Māori just aren't to be found within these pages, but this book could be used as a launching point from which to delve deeper.

I'd particularly recommend this book for reluctant readers from pre-teen to young adult.
Author & Illustrator: Mark Abnett, illustrator: P R Dedelis
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9781775437925
Format: Paperback
Publication: Apr, 2023
Ages: 10-14 years
Themes: Atua Māori, anime, post-apocalyptic, futuristic