Some interesting new books set in Hawaii

3 minute read

Here at The Hawaii Project, we have an unsurprising interest in books set in Hawaii, or by authors with a connection to Hawaii.

We recently became aware of two new interesting books by Kauai Bill Fernandez, you may want to check them out!

The first is an historical adventure: John Tana: An Adventure Tale of Old Hawaii. This book will give you an interesting look into the old Hawaii of the mid 1800s, ranging from Maui to Honolulu to Kauai.

John Tana

When a sugar baron kicks John Tana off his farmland on Maui in the mid-1800s, the orphan Hawaiian seventeen-year-old feels the shock of the dramatic change in land control in Hawai'i. Western capitalism and private property clash with the communal lifestyle and sharing of the common people. Many Hawaiians lost their lands because the planters convinced a king of the need for individual farmlands for Hawaiians but, in reality, intended to make it so complicated few would do so. This led to the vast plantations on the islands and destitution for Hawaiians. John's story reveals the path of the power shift from the monarchs to the western business interests in the 1800s which drove Hawaiians into poverty. Homeless after being evicted, John sets out for Lahaina in his canoe to seek relatives. Lahaina waters are filled with ships. Whaling ship captains and sailors rule the town and torment him. There he meets a beautiful cousin but learns that the western religion of Christianity forbids a romantic a relationship. John learns a killer hired by the sugar baron has found him. This threat and a ship captain seeking revenge force him to sail his canoe to Honolulu where he finds life is even more complicated. There the intense racism against Asians boils over when a Chinese man he befriended kills his employer. John seeks justice for him, and when he finds the man, convinces him to surrender to the police. A newspaper article and photo reveal John's presence in Honolulu. A Hawaiian lawyer who defends the Chinese man becomes John's friend and advisor. His aunt sends his cousin to a strict girl's boarding school in the city where he is forbidden to contact her so he immerses himself in learning the secret martial art of lua to distract his mind. But a young French girl pesters him. The future king of the Hawaiian monarchy takes an interest in his martial arts skills and invites John to join his militia. In a dramatic scene, the surprising truth about the cousin's parentage is revealed. Encouraged by the news they are not related, John tries to talk to her but his efforts are blocked by another sugar baron who wants to marry her off to another. As John tries to accept this, he learns that the hired killer has found him. After a fierce fight for his life, John realizes he can no longer stay in Honolulu. John escapes in his canoe and heads to Kaua'i where he hopes he can enjoy a quiet rural life.

The second is the Cult of Ku, moving forward from the 1850s to the 1920s, a murder mystery set in Honolulu and touching on both the social elites as well as the criminal underworld.

Cult of Ku

A series of gruesome human sacriifice-style murders in 1920 Honolulu strike the island's Caucasian power elite. War hero and son of a plantation owner, Grant Kingsley is arrested for the brutal murder of his grandmother who threatened to disinherit him because of his ancestry. She had read his mother s deathbed letter suggesting his true father was a Native Hawaiian. In the elite social structure this was unacceptable. To clear his name, Grant searches for the true killer which exposes him to the criminal underworld, anti-union violence, the Japanese military expansion into the south Pacific, and racism. He meets a world not encountered in his limited social life: the invisible world of surfers, the martial art of lua, Hawaiian rituals, and a beautiful and independent-minded Eurasian scholar. Grant realizes his family power is not something to be proud of. As more brutal murders occur his arrest is imminent. Can he prove his innocence? Will time run out? Will his ancestry doom him? Will his father reject him? The author's legal career and Native Hawaiian ancestry produce a fast-paced, historically accurate, crime novel set amidst the racism of the power elite of 1920 Honolulu. The last murder victim is dragged to a heiau (temple) near the ocean while Grant frantically races to the scene. A dramatic fight near crashing waves uncovers the identity of the killer and a surprising motive.