Hooked from the first line, with room for character development, Savarna Yang
Cry of the Taniwha
November 23, 2021
Matt Logan is less than impressed when he hears that his holiday job is babysitting the boy from next door. He’s already had to fly to Rotorua to stay with his nan and her new husband – who Matt’s never met before – and now he’s stuck with Juzza, who’s pretty rude for one thing, but also someone who could lead Matt into big trouble.
However, Hone, Matt’s step-grandfather, thinks Matt could steer Juzza onto a better path – away from the gang life that Juzza seems so tempted by. With the help of Matt’s special metal detector, Matt and Juzza go hunting for buried treasure in the nearby forest. They don’t really expect to find anything out of the ordinary, but they’re still hoping for something a little more than the usual rusty nails and old beer tops.
But when Matt’s metal detector does pick up something that shouldn’t be there, Matt and Juzza find themselves being drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse that could end with one of them being killed. And it really doesn’t help that their opponents are the very gang that Juzza wants to join…
Cry of the Taniwha by Des Hunt is an epic adventure story that had me hooked from the first line. Set in Rotorua, I got to learn a little bit about the history of the place while enjoying the read at the same time.
I think the first word that came to my mind when I was trying to sum up this book was ‘suspense,’ with ‘action’ coming a close second. And with those two combined, they could only lead to a recipe for a very engrossing mystery! I had no idea where the plot was going – not because I was confused, but because there are so many unexpected twists. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, Hunt would spin the story in a completely different direction. The end scene is a really good example of this. In fact, it’s probably my favourite part of the whole book!
While succeeding in writing an absolutely action-packed story (even after the climax the excitement continues right until the last page), Hunt has also managed to make sure that every word has a specific purpose. There’s no faffing around – when he first introduces you to the main character Matt, he conveys Matt’s name, age, town and destination, all in the first few words and all without directly saying ‘his name was this,’ or ‘he was this age.’
But, there is a but… Eve is a character who’s introduced later in the book. 13-years-old, Australian, and staying in Rotorua for the holidays, Matt first meets Eve at her hotel. He spills out the story of treasure-hunting in the forest and Eve asks if she can be his research assistant, as she’s finding her holiday ‘dead boring,’ and has nothing to do.
As one of the only girl characters in the whole story, I really wanted to like Eve, but I just found her too annoying. She’s clever and pretty but also sort of weak. She doesn’t have the strength of character that I felt she needed – she’s constantly being helped by Matt and he even rescues her at one point. She does improve a bit toward the end, though.
Juzza is quite unrelatable as well, but in his case I felt this was just in keeping with his personality. But this does only leave Matt to pull the character part of the story together. Luckily, he’s a great protagonist, with believable personality traits and relatable strengths and weaknesses. For example, I empathised with his fears of no one being at the airport to meet him when he first arrived in Rotorua.
All in all, Cry of the Taniwha is a gripping novel that any reader 9-14 would enjoy. With scary gangsters, a mysterious something buried in the ground, and a special bird, you won’t be able to put this book down.
- Savarna is 13 and lives near Dunedin.