Book Review – Toroa by Erik Hofstatter


I’ll admit, the premise of this book didn’t draw me in initially. I’d enjoyed the fantastic Rare Breeds by Erik Hofstatter and thought that that story was a man on top form. Perhaps I worried that this wouldn’t live up to that one, or something. Maori folklore was not a big draw for me either, I don’t know why, I’ve nothing against it, but it just didn’t scream ‘read me, you bastard’ like other books do.

I shouldn’t have worried.

This novel was a great story that paced along perfectly. The story is engaging, the characters all have that air of ‘can they be trusted?’ around them, and the payoff at the end worked really well.

Mahi is a lady with a less-than-favourable life. Her mother is a, well, bitch, and she doesn’t even know who her father was. The product of a one night stand between her mom and a local she met whilst studying birds in New Zealand, Mahi seems to have gone through life with something missing.

But alas, she finally meets a guy, they fall in love, and she becomes pregnant. Aww, what a lovely tale. But this is a horror novel, so as you can imagine, things go downhill for her. And fast.

To say too much more would be spoiler-esque of me, so I won’t. But Mahi ends up visiting her father’s homeland to track him down. Is it for closure, to finally meet him, or is it because her life seems to be falling apart around her? Does her would-be father even know she exists?

This novel reeks of creepiness. As mentioned earlier, it’s hard to know who to trust in this story, as the vibe surrounding it creates an unnerving atmosphere around Mahi and her journey.

There’s some gore here that some may find too much, but although shocking it had me engrossed from the beginning. There’s also a dark humour just hiding under the surface that you kind of want to laugh at, but feel you’re letting your guard down if you do.

A toroa is an albatross (a northern royal albatross no less – yes I was paying attention), and the bird theme is present throughout, although not always centre stage. The background of birds ends up being extremely important in the plot, one that’s only subtlety hinted at but lingers with you throughout.

I enjoyed this much more than expected, even though I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting. It won’t be to everybody’s tastes, of course but mine were delighted.

Mahi was an interesting character. At times I wondered what the hell she was actually on about, and thought a few of her actions were kind of bitchy. But then, she’s been through some shit, stuff that I’ve never had to go through (and definitely won’t) so I suppose I can forgive her for that.

The ending is great, and I flew through the finale in no time. Plus I learned a new word; maschalagnia – check it out.

I would recommend this book very much, but would also warn that there are some brutal and potentially upsetting scenes within. So just grab a copy and get involved with some ornithological-horror-gore action!

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