Today’s review is for a book that’s historical fiction that takes place on Hawaii. Sounds fantastic, right? (I say as I’m walking on a treadmill in cold Ohio where I have to wear three sweaters even though I’m inside.)
FIRST OFF, SOME STATS:
BACK COVER BLURB
Inspired by a true story
Hawaiian Islands, 1779
As the second daughter of a royal chief, Maile will be permitted to marry for love. Her fiancé is the best navigator in Hawaii, and he taught her everything he knows how to feel the ocean, observe the winds, read the stars, and how to love.
But when sailors from a strange place called England arrive on her island, a misunderstanding ends in battle, and Maile is suddenly widowed before she is wed.
Finding herself in the middle of the battle and fearing for her life, Maile takes John Harbottle, the wounded man who killed her fiancé, prisoner, and though originally intending to let him die, she reluctantly heals him. And in the process, she discovers the man she thought was her enemy might be her ally instead.
John has been Captain James Cook’s translator for three voyages across the Pacific. He is kind and clearly fascinated with her homeland and her people and Maile herself. But guilt continues to drive a wedge between them: John’s guilt over the death he caused, and Maile’s guilt over the truth about what triggered the deadly battle a secret she’s kept hidden from everyone on the island.
When Maile is tasked with teaching John how to navigate using the stars so he can sail back to England, they must also navigate the challenges of being from very different cultures. In doing so, they might also find the peace that comes when two hearts become one.
WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK
Several years ago I went to Hawaii and found the history to be intriguing, yet despite that, I haven’t found a lot of good historical fiction books set in Hawaii, so when I read the back cover blurb for A Song For the Stars I decided to go for it.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK
There was so much history, culture, and lore woven into this book that made reading it a rich experience of learning about a people group that I don’t have a lot of knowledge about. I didn’t realize until the end that the story is based loosely on that of the author’s four-times-great-grandparents, but when I read that, it made the story even more special to me.
I’m going to go with a list of pros and cons for this book, because there was so much I did like, and yet some things that weren’t to my liking.
The setting… I felt as if I’d been immersed into Hawaiian culture and sucked into their world. I felt the rain, the thinness of the pounded bark clothing, heard the swaying of the heavy foliage, the rhythm of the waves. I could taste the salt of the ocean, imagine the terror of the battle, and see the droplets of blood from knife cuts.
The culture… I learned so much about how Hawaiians lived back then – their beliefs, practices, worldview, why they did what they did, and how it impacted those around them. It was very interesting and presented in such a way that I felt like I was learning at a good pace, not having information shoved down my throat for the sake of sharing it.
The characters… Especially Maile, the main character, were well written and had depth. I liked seeing how Maile viewed life because it was quite different from how I view life. I especially like how the author kept her very non-modern-American. There were many things that she did that I halfway cringed about, but she felt like it was so normal she didn’t give it a second thought – that was one of my favorite parts of the book.
John killing Maile’s fiancé. As far as I could tell this wasn’t part of the true life story that the book was inspired by, and therefore it felt needless to me. It bothered me how both John and Maile reacted to this heartbreak, but I won’t go into that because of spoilers.
The amount of time John and Maile spent alone – although there was a reason for it, I couldn’t shut off the shouting in my brain that said that it wouldn’t actually be allowed since she was the chief’s daughter. Plus, that’s just not something I like in books, so…
So, obviously I don’t have a lot of cons, but they were strong enough ones that they bought the book from four stars to three stars for me.
This isn’t Christian fiction, and it does talk about the gods the Hawaiian’s believed in, etc… Plus, it has a lot about the ocean where it portrays it as something (someone?) that consciously helps, hurts, or is angry with humans. This didn’t bother me because it’s part of the beliefs the Hawaiians held, but it’s also something I don’t agree with.
I’m giving A Song for the Stars 3 out of 5 stars.
((I got this ebook from NetGalley in exchange for me reviewing it, all thoughts and opinions are my own.))