Once There Was Fire

A Novel of Old Hawaii

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Pub Date 06 Dec 2016 | Archive Date 04 May 2024
Pai'ea Press, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles

Description

"This is a memoir of the way of our people before the coming of the haole: before the first English explorers arrived in their tall ships; before the Congregationalist missionaries descended upon us from New England with their religious tracts and their severe moral judgments; before the arrival of the whalers and the merchants and their like."

So begins this account of the life of Kamehameha the Great, the legendary founder of the Hawaiian Kingdom, as told by his surviving nephew, Nāmākēha‘okalani.

The son Kamehameha’s favorite brother, Nāmākēha relates the story of Kamehameha’s rise to power as he heard it from his father, and from his own memories of Kamehameha. Writing in 1858, Nāmākēha begins his chronicle with Kamehameha’s ill-starred birth on Hawaii’s Big Island in 1748 and ends it with an eye-witness description of startling events that followed Kamehameha’s death in 1819. Along the way, Nāmākēha recounts Kamehameha’s lengthy struggles with rivals for rule of the Big Island, and later the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, a tale punctuated by the isolated Hawaiian people’s momentous first encounter with Europeans when English explorer James Cook arrives in 1778-79.

Nāmākēha writes of a people who live close to nature, worship multiple gods and goddesses, submit to unforgiving laws (kapu)—including a ban against men and women eating together, love freely without shame, and fight periodic, bloody struggles for land and power. He makes no apology for the bloody fighting that marks Kamehameha’s conquest of the Hawaiian Islands.

“We were violent, when necessary—as bloodthirsty in war-making as we were lusty in lovemaking. Bloody conflict was a constant among us as our chiefs contended for dominion. But in this respect,” Nāmākēha says, “we were no worse than the haole themselves.”

An epic tale told from a Hawaiian viewpoint; Once There Was Fire is the story of Hawaii James Michener never told.

(Author’s revised edition, copyright 2023)


"This is a memoir of the way of our people before the coming of the haole: before the first English explorers arrived in their tall ships; before the Congregationalist missionaries descended upon us...


A Note From the Publisher

Case laminate hardcover copyright 2023 (9798218150143)

Digital clothbound hardcover copyright 2023 (9798218150150)

Jacketed case laminate hardcover copyright 2023 (9798218150730)

Case laminate hardcover copyright 2023 (9798218150143)

Digital clothbound hardcover copyright 2023 (9798218150150)

Jacketed case laminate hardcover copyright 2023 (9798218150730)


Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9780692771334
PRICE $23.00 (USD)
PAGES 546

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Average rating from 15 members


Featured Reviews

Interesting historical fiction story of Hawaii. I've never been to Hawaii, but have read many books on the state. This one has lots of info, tho' as it's not a scholarly work, the facts in it may or may not be correct. i am hoping they are as they sound like they should be. Mr. Shendor seems to have done his homework! it's a good solid read for anyone wanting to learn more about Hawaii's history.

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Life moves in cycles and in this cycle I find myself immersed in historical fiction. Not the sort of story that uses (loosely) the manners and mores of an era to bring an extra bit of piquancy to a romance but the type that tries to share with you the lives and times of its cast and inform and enlarge your knowledge of the past. "Real" history, fictionalized, such as this well-researched biography of King Kamehameha and history of the Hawaiian Islands. I can hear the island lilt in the dialogue as the ways and practices of the times before the invasion by the haoles are described. Despite being at a neolithic stage of development (largely, I would imagine, due to lack of available metals), the society was diverse, multi-layered and as nuanced as the iron age James Cook's; a complete and complex civilization. The story itself moves along well despite confusion caused by so many similar musically multisyllabic names (abbreviated for our convenience wherever possible--and quite probably by the people at the time, in the manner of nicknames, despite a certain formality required by court etiquette and very strict laws).

I've been to Hawaii and enjoyed its beauty and became intrigued by its people and history so when I saw this listed in the Netgalley offerings I requested a copy. Many hours later (this is a large, meaty book!) I am feeling enriched by my selection.

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