A bold and stirring historical novel ... Meticulously researched and thrillingly told, it is first and foremost entertaining with confident pacing and compelling characters, but it also proves an intriguing and enlightening foray into a tumultuous and pivotal period in Hawaiian history.
"The descriptions of phenomenal storytellers, feast makers, drinking contests, blood bonds, sacrifices of prisoners, polygamous relationships, remarkable physical prowess in sport and war, military strategies that guarantee success or failure, and so much more fill these pages into what one can only call a mesmerizing saga."
"...this novel should gratify historians and general readers alike....A thoughtful, well-written work that breathes new life into past personalities and events."
"Skillfully written and consistently entertaining, Once There Was Fire is an extraordinary work of literature, a compelling read from beginning to end, and unreservedly recommended, especially for community library collections."
Stephen Shender does a wonderful job of bringing the rich and complicated history of Hawaii to the reader in the simplest, eloquent and most splendid way. The descriptions of the scenery and the imagery were so real that you could almost taste the salt of the ocean and understand the way the 18th century Hawaiians lived.
What makes this historical novel impressive is its author’s feel for his epic subject matter, and his ability to tell the story so lyrically, with a Hawaiian lilt to the language. His Kamehameha resembles larger-than-life Western literary figures, from the classical myths of antiquity through King Arthur to Shakespeare in this page turner that vividly paints a way of life worlds apart from the one we now know on Hawaii’s shores.