Nikau's Escape by Kate S Richards
In Central Plateau's volcanic terrain, legendary mountain warriors battled for a beautiful bride. It is here that Jabu finds himself thrust into another adventure. He is equally beguiled by Pania and Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud.
Snowboarding on a mountain sounds exciting, but he doesn’t expect to be near the top when Ruapehu erupts.
Further down the volcano, Nikau can't find his sister. The avalanche has swallowed her and as rock bombs crash around him, he flees.
He snowboards away, escaping the eruption and a roiling lahar, to seek shelter. Deep in the indigenous woodland, he finally learns his family’s secrets. He will need to face off with his ex-jailbird father and grapple with the truth behind his parents’ divorce. Survival and loyalty are at stake.
Nikau's Escape is the third and final instalment in the Adventures of Jabu and Friends series.
While part of a series, each of the three books can be read apart and treated as separate stories. However, it is when they are read as a trilogy that the reader gets a fuller, more nuanced, reading of Jabu and his friends.
Jabu is such a great character, full of heart and compassion and a real desire to learn. While Nikau's Escape pivots away from Jabu as a main character, he's still there and Richards ensures his character continues to grow and learn.
Pania and Nikau are complex and realistic, so too is their father. They all have their strengths, but more importantly they all have their flaws too. Rusty the recluse will be instantly recognisable for any New Zealander.
This story is a little more mature than the previous two, with some fairly intense topics and more romance. While this one is more for young adults, Richards makes sure the story is still age appropriate.
This is a book with three very distinct cultures and languages. Richards incorporates all three - Zulu, te reo Māori and Pākehā - organically and respectfully. A glossary is included in the book, but unlike many others, Richards veers from convention by placing it at the front of the book. This is, as she states in a note, "to draw readers' attention to it as a tool". She also includes more information about words that might not need translating, but need a bit more context to readers not familiar with New Zealand or South Africa; foods, flora and fauna all get a quick but informative explanation. It's also great that she's provided links to her sources when defining words.
Nikau's Escape is full of action, just like Richards' earlier stories. While the adventure may not be what we physically experience, the coming-of-age challenges the characters go through will resonate with all. What I love most of all though is the deep message within that Richards manages to impart on readers without feeling like you're being lectured at.
Reviewed by: Rebekah Lyell
Green Room House, RRP $29.99