Just a few months ago I was thinking that the Maori stories of patupaiarehe would make an interesting starting point for a fantasy novel - and then Anne put this on my desk, hinting (rather heavily) that wouldn't it just be lovely if I reviewed it. Just reading it on my lunch breaks soon became frustrating. I'm not good at nibbling away at books; I like to gobble them whole. So, about halfway through I took it home and finished it that night (somewhat ignoring the guests we had, but they're family so they should be used to me by now).
The theme running through the book is that the stories we're raised on shape us and the world we see. Because it's set in New Zealand that means a decent helping of Maori myth and legend. And while the well-known figures of Rangi, Papa and Maui make cameos, it's the lesser known race of the patupaiarehe who are the main antagonists.
Te Ara (Encyclopedia of New Zealand) describes patupaiarehe as "fairy-like creatures of the forests and mountain tops. Although they had some human attributes, patupaiarehe were regarded not as people but as supernatural beings (he iwi atua).They were seldom seen, and an air of mystery and secrecy still surrounds them." I hadn't heard of them until quite recently, but they immediately caught my imagination.
This book has a bit of everything: magic, adventure, romance, and a heroine with a black belt in tae kwan do. Our heroine, Ellie, is a teenager with the requisite self-esteem issues, but she's got enough fight and feistiness in her to make her a likeable and relatable character.