Believing God speaks to him through the archangel Gabriel, and anointed with powers, Te Ua unites his people through a common cause. He is determined to drive the imperial oppressors from Maori land and return New Zealand to the righteous.
In early 1860’s New Zealand, the beautiful region of Taranaki is engulfed in a brutal land war. Continuing with its unpopular policy, the New Zealand government, bolstered by British soldiers, seeks punitive and severe action against rebel Maori who openly resist the Government’s determined effort to confiscate their lands.
With regular army forces ill equipped to fight in the wilderness, the specialist highly trained ‘Forest Rangers’ are tasked to pursue rebel Maori deep into the rugged bush clad hills.
The Rangers newest recruit, Moana (Ira) Rangitira, a veteran of the Crimean war, shows remarkable and unusual skills, Maori fear and call him, ‘The ghost who walks’. Ira faces challenges that test his will to survive, and can he protect what is closest to his heart, or has everything been destroyed?
Review by Michael Connery
Paul Feenstra’s first installment in the Moana Rangitira adventure series, The Breath of God, follows the titular character from his unorthodox recruitment into the elite Forest Rangers through numerous skirmishes, triumphs, and heartache. While the tale concludes on an open-ended note, it is not a cliffhanger. Feenstra’s tale is one of heritage, culture, history, and camaraderie.
The strength of The Breath of God lies in the characters, and Feenstra does an excellent job in bringing historical figures to vivid life on the pages. Major Gustavus Von Tempsky in particular is an intriguing character taken from the pages of history. Though told from multiple perspectives, Moana is the central protagonist, and he is a skilled, nuanced hero, though much of his past and motivation is still a mystery at the end of the book.
Feenstra’s style of storytelling is straightforward and crisp, and while historical facts pepper the pages, they do not bog down the pace of the plot. The story unfolds at an even pace, and the action is taut, the battle scenes gritty and realistic. Even so, sly, subtle humor touches the page often, and there are moments of tenderness and poignancy interspersed with the violence.
The setting and momentum of the plot is unique in today’s fiction market: exploring the bitter struggle between the Europeans and the Maori in the colonization of New Zealand. Interwoven with fiction is an authentic, nuanced portrayal of immensely different cultures coming into contact with one another, at times harmoniously, in other instances leading to horrific, bloody encounters. Feenstra does a brilliant job of handling both sides of the tumultuous equation with sensitivity and astuteness. Neither side is portrayed as evil; instead, Feenstra gives the conflict a human face through his characters on both sides of the struggle.
Feenstra’s story is filled with vibrant imagery of a beautiful country locked in conflict, of two cultures at war with one another, of the friendships formed at the height of danger. The rippling repercussion of divisive politics and of religious zeal devolved into fanaticism underpin the tale, made especially haunting by the fact that the story is based on recorded events. Steeped in the little-explored history, politics, religion, and conflicts of the early colonization of New Zealand, The Breath of God is an engaging, gripping tale that leaves the reader anticipating the next adventure in the series.
Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction, particularly military fiction, stories focused on the issues of colonization, and unique, little-explored settings