Review: Battle of the Birds by Lee Murray

Reviewed by Margaret Craigie

Battle of the Birds, Te Pakanga o nga Manu, is a delightful book that is unapologetically written for a New Zealand audience.  I found this really refreshing and unexpectedly relaxing.  I did not realise until I read Lee Murray’s book, how hard a New Zealand reader works to imagine locations written in overseas settings.

There were a few minor errors that I noticed early on; bought instead of brought; hopefully instead of she hoped; and ‘like’ meaning ‘the same’ instead of ‘similar to’.  These are in common usage verbally, but I prefer the written word to be a little more accurate.  Nevertheless, my overall enjoyment of the subject matter was enough to overlook these.

Murray’s book also made me think.  I’ve always believed that the Haast Eagle, Te Hokioi, mainly lived in Haast.  However, a range of mountains in the central North Island bears another Maori name for the huge bird, implying strongly that at one time, the eagle was common throughout Aotearoa.

However, I admit to being a little puzzled as to why Te Hokioi would banish the flightless, including his major food supply of the moa to the South Island.  Furthermore, despite being the preferred delicacy on the menu, Moa was chosen as the champion to fight Te Hokioi. (haukeeoi)

Generally though, it was a most enjoyable read with a beautiful mixing of Maori and Pakeha cultures (even a trace of Scottish), particularly noticeable in the main characters getting the hot air balloon to fly.

I look forward to reading more books by Lee Murray


Order Battle of the Birds from us now. RRP $15

Excerpt/Quotes Margaret liked:

Most of the Eagle quotes: The eagle’s name is Ken.

For example on Pg 22 he says:  “I prefer my fish battered”

Pg 146-7 Around The prophecy

‘As this dark stone reflects the light, so will rise who conquers flight’

Battle of the birds