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Once There Was Fire: A Novel of Old Hawaii

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  42 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Discover the epic story of old Hawaii James Michener never told

The Hawaiian people lived in an isolated Garden of Eden and fought over it for centuries. Then one day, strangers came from beyond the horizon on floating islands. At first, the Hawaiians thought they were gods. Having no metal of their own, they marveled at the visitors’ iron daggers, axes, muskets, and cannon
Paperback, 562 pages
Published December 12th 2016 by Pai'ea Press
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Carole P. Roman
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fictionalized history of King Kamehameha and the eventual clash when the Europeans land in Hawaii. Respectful and lovingly recounted, Shender retells the mystery of Kamehameha's birth, all while expertly explaining customs and culture of the region. Born under the shadow of an ominous omen, Kamehameha is spirited away hours after his birth to be brought up by farmers rather than murdered by a rival king. He returns to his family at six and takes his rightful place, learning how to be a leader an ...more
July 7, 2018

A review by Anthony T. Riggio of the book Once There Was Fire: A novel of Old Hawaii written by Stephen Shender

I purchased this book from Amazon in the Kindle edition. I have always wondered about the people of Hawaii just before the White man arrived. I had read James Michner's epic entitled “Hawaii” but there few details of the impact Captain Cook's arrival had on the aboriginal people that had been living there for at least a thousand years. While this was a novel it is chock full
Leonide Martin
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After 700 years of isolation, Hawaii was on the brink of contact with the Western world as this story begins. It is told first person by Namakeha, nephew of Kamehameha I, the great king who united the islands in 1810. Framed as Namakeha's memoirs written at the urging of his royal Hawaiian wife Esther (who later became queen), the historical recount begins with Kamehameha's birth on the Big Island and follows the young noble's path to become a great leader. The Hawaiians of the mid-1700s were di ...more
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, reviews
DNF. I wanted to like this book so badly but I finally had to put it down about halfway through. It's supposed to be a novel based on the history of the Hawaiian people and the king who united all of the islands but the "novel" part was lost. It definitely read like a very, very dry history. There were a lot of confusing, similarly-named characters to keep up with and the story went on for way too long. About half of the content could have been edited out and it would have been twice as enjoyabl ...more
L.A. Keller
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel spans more than 100 years in Hawaiian history from 1748 to 1859. I am ashamed to say I had no knowledge of the Hawaiian culture or history prior to reading this book. It was interesting to learn that the island chieftains were warring in a ceaseless battle to rule.

I was also surprised by the open ‘marriages’ and impressed by the culture’s easy acceptance of it. That is, of course, until foreigners forced their own cultural beliefs on the natives. I was also surprised at the mention of
Jan 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Once There Was Fire: A Novel of Old Hawaii by Stephen Shender is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late December.

Though it wasn't immediately apparent, the author researched Hawaiian myth and history and created a spurious character who writes of his family and culture before the year 1840. Fictional sentiments aside, it comes off like a Lancelot tale and The Odyssey all rolled into one.
James (JD) Dittes
Visitors think of Hawaii as a place of surf, sand, and flowing lava, but Stephen Shender's new book is a keen reminder that 'once there was fire'--the fire of culture that had grown for 1400 years prior to its first encounter with Europeans, and one which reached its apogee in the reign of King Kamehameha (I) the Great (1758-1819). The central figure in Once There Was Fire, Kamehameha, would unify the islands under his rule, but he would also sow the seeds that brought native culture there to th ...more
C. Coleman
I have stressed over the review of this book for a week. Clearly, there was a great amount of research done and in general, it's a great story. I wanted to know more about the Hawaiians before us haolies messed things up. That said, I found it almost impossible to read due to an endless stream of names that read more like a census report. It got bogged down in much of that minutia. IMHO, a third of the book could have been edited out. Even though the 'episodes' seemed endless, I found it hard to ...more
Kay Hadashi
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read the paperback edition of Stephen Shender's "Once There Was Fire". First, a comment about the quality of the book: it was very well and professionally presented as a paperback.

Now, about the writing. The story of Hawaii just before European contact is told through the eyes of a fictitious character, bringing in numerous real people, battles, and daily lives of the Hawaiians. It was very well researched, turning dry history lessons into compelling scenes. If you want to learn about Hawaiia
Natacha Lalande
To be totally honest, i got lost so many times reading it especially because of the number of similar and foreign names the characters have. At some point i even forgot who was the main character's name. But the story is great and this should not stop you from reading it.

I'm excited to also present you my spotlight for this novel along with an interview with the author about himself and the novel.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this is the best biography of Kamehameha the Great you could find. Granted, this is not a historiographer's biography; even the subtitle is up-front on identifying this book as a "novel." Stephen Shender invents dialogue, massages drama, and fills in the blanks between big events related in more "official" biographies to smooth the narrative.

But let's face it. Most "old Hawaiian" history comes to us by means of oral tradition. And following the story in
Christine Boswell
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Adults
Excellent book! I loved it.
Linda K
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I believe there will always be controversy on the History of the Hawaiian people. Mainly as most of us know a lot of the History was passed on verbally and never written. Which is ironic considering a lot of written history have been in question for decades, with its many versions the Holy Bible for example, or a time when someone's word was as good as a business contract of today. In respect to Mr. Namakeha his bloodline alone in my opinion gives his story "Mo'olelo" legitimacy. He speaks only ...more
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Jaime Olmos
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Joel Thimell
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it

If you love foreign travel, action adventure, war memoirs, historical fiction or are just fascinated with Hawaii like I am, you will enjoy Once There Was Fire: A Novel of Old Hawaii, the debut novel by Stephen Shender. It tells the life story of King Kamehameha who conquered and unified the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1800s. Unless you are a native of the Aloha State, the history and culture of the early Hawaiian people is probably unfamiliar to you. What most peop
David Holly
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Jul 07, 2017
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Sally Waller
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Jul 30, 2018
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During a professional writing career spanning 30 years, I worked as a congressional press aide in Washington, D.C., newspaper reporter and editor on California's Central Coast (Monterey and Santa Cruz counties) political speechwriter in Washington, D.C. (Clinton administration), corporate speechwriter in Los Angeles, marketing communications writer in Silicon Valley, and freelancer before retiring ...more