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Why Kaua'i?

Updated: Aug 20, 2018

Emma Prince Kaua'i Mysteries are inspired by time spent on Kaua‘i since 2010, a passion for history, and mysteries with a twist of magical realism.

Kēʽē Beach, Hāʽena State Park  Photo by Jim Balyszak
Kēʽē Beach, Hāʽena State Park Photo by Jim Balyszak


This fall, I’m excited to release A Telling of Ancestors and Waking the Sleeping Giant, the first two Emma Prince Kaua‘i Mysteries. I'm also currently completing a third book in the series, Beneath Still Waters, to be released in 2019.

Although works of fiction, premised on an ‘alternative’ history of my own fabrication, the books are infused with a generous dose of authentic Hawaiian history, mythology and magical realism, along with elusive snippets of information written or remembered in the annals of history, or drawn from such noted Hawaiian historians as Samuel M. Kamakau, Abraham Fornander, David Malo, John Papa ‘I‘i, Frederick B. Wichman, Mary Kawena Pukui, Lilikalā Kame‘eleihiwa, Edward Joesting, and Martha Warren Beckwith.

To see paradise is to believe it exists. Yet, Eden always defies description that does it justice, nor does it give away all of its deepest secrets. I hope my portrayal of paradise is pono, a fitting and proper depiction which is as accurate, and respectful as possible...

They say, write what you know. So, when I set out to write the series, I decided to do just that—except in my case it involved a sharp learning curve on Hawaiian history, culture, language, and mythology. I amassed an ever-growing library on Hawaiian history and culture; visited the Kaua‘i Historical Society, Kaua‘i Museum, and Princeville Public Library; researched on-line historical resources; read The Garden Island daily and re-visited many of its earlier articles; and during multiple, extended trips to Kaua‘i since 2010, explored some of the island’s wahi pana, ‘legendary or storied places’.

For the series, I have crafted a ka‘ao, a fictional story, a legend, tale, or novel, usually fanciful, that also includes a mo‘olelo, a narrative or story tied to a historical figure, in this case historical events and legends connected to the life and death nearly two centuries ago of Kaumuali‘i, the last independent king of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. Descended from an esteemed, royal lineage tied to the Nā Pua Ali‘i o Kaua‘i, the ruling chiefs of Kaua‘i, Kaumuali‘i (c. 1780-1824) and his 'Separate Kingdom' would be caught up in a maelstrom about to sweep the Hawaiian Islands. Events would pit ancient traditions and a two thousand year old way of life linked to the ancient Polynesians against irreversible changes coming from two distinct fronts—one Hawaiian, the other foreign.

Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau could no longer be distanced from the fallout from centuries of conflict between the Hawaiian people as warring ali‘i hungrily sought control over all of the islands, ultimately achieved by Kamehameha I in 1810 when Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau were ceded to him by King Kaumuali‘i. And, foreign incomers weighing anchor in ever-increasing numbers in island waters beginning in 1778 would be the juggernaut that would forever transform all of Hawai‘i. The islands would be undone by disease and weaponry, taking advantage of its aloha, plundering island resources for trade, covetousness for ‘āina by plantation builders, and missionaries with 'good intentions' who diminished centuries-old cultural and spiritual beliefs as they preached Christianity to a culture already in possession of a strong faith.

Circumstances beyond his control made it impossible for Kaumuali‘i to save his ‘Separate Kingdom’ and his people from what would happen to independent governance and to the land (‘āina). In the end, not even his best maneuverings could successfully guard against the rising tides he could foresee coming like a tsunami. Ultimately, independent governance of the Hawaiian Islands would come to an end through a forced overthrow and dissolution of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1893, annexation by the United States in 1898, and eventual statehood some sixty-one years later in 1959.

Centuries later, history tells us what happened, but doesn't fill in the gaps of what might have been under different circumstances. Once history is written, one can only imagine different outcomes. But, what continues to resonate in twenty-first century Kaua‘i is the legacy of Kaumuali‘i, as well as a present still deeply rooted in a mythic past, filled with honor, love for ‘āina and ‘ohana , and an unwavering tie to ancient legends, spirituality, and island magic (ho‘okalakupua) known as mana, a divine power of the gods (akua) and deified ancestral spirits (‘aumākua) tied to such things as dreams (moe‘uhane), visions (akakū), divination (hailona), omens (hō‘ailona), revelations of the night (hō‘ike na ka pō), and prayer (pule)—if you believe such things exist. I do.

To see paradise is to believe it exists. Yet, Eden always defies description that does it justice, nor does it give away all of its deepest secrets. Fictional story aside, I hope my portrayal of paradise is pono, a fitting and proper depiction which is as accurate and respectful as possible, as has been my intent all along. It is my hope that readers of all ages and origins, whether island residents, visiting tourists, or armchair travelers, will gain an appreciation for something more than just an entertaining ‘story’, and want to delve deeper into this intriguing place when at the end they close the book.


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