#Popsugar Reading Challenge category: A book by a first-time author
The Captain and the King, by Jack Champlin
This novel had its genesis in a true story: the strange odyssey of the statue of Hawaii's King Kamehaha. The statue was created in Germany, then transported by ship in 1880, only to have the ship catch fire and sink near the Falkland Islands. A second statue was commissioned, and is now prominently displayed in Honolulu. Meanwhile, the original statue was salvaged and brought to Hawaii, where it was restored and given a place of honor near Kamehameha's birthplace on the Big Island.
From these threads, the author weaves a tale imagining the life of the ship's captain, Gerhard Schrock. The narrative follows him through hazards on the sea, the ship's final sinking, and a tribunal in the Falklands to determine if he was at fault. In the final section, Schrock is building a new life for himself in Hawaii and falling in love. He finds himself in the middle of a supernatural struggle between two kahunas, one with an ancient grudge against Kamehameha's family, the other trying to restore the statue with Kamehameha's mana (spirit) to its rightful place. Both claim to have been present in spirit at the sinking of the ship, and Schrock, who was raised to pride himself on being rational, keeps encountering the inexplicable.
Having seen the statue in person, it really does have the kind of presence that can inspire a story of mystery and adventure.