‘Telesa: The Covenant Keeper’ is the first book in Lani Wendt Young’s Telesa trilogy. It is a Young Adult Paranormal Romance set in modern Samoa and inspired by ancient mythologies from the Pacific region.
Leila Folger, a teenager from Washington D.C, travels to Samoa after her father’s sudden death. All she wants is to meet her mother’s family, get to know something more about her heritage, and find a place she could call ‘home’. But from the very beginning nothing seems to go her way. Leila’s aunt Matile and uncle Tuala do not want to broach certain subjects, she is forced to abide by strict rules and has to adjust to Samoa College – a school she needs to attend.
But as time goes by, Leila starts to settle into her new environment. She is befriended by Simone, a very nice fa’afafine who instantly becomes her best friend, and meets Daniel, a handsome captain of the SamCo’s rugby team. Even though Leila and Daniel seem like total opposites at first, they quickly become attracted to each other and gradually develop a romantic relationship.
Leila’s life changes dramatically when she discovers a strange fire growing inside her body. Having no idea what it is caused by, she starts looking for some answers. And she gets them when she meets her mother. The beautiful woman introduces her daughter to the Sisterhood of Telesā. The girl is now torn between two worlds…
The book is considered Young Adult fiction, but you will definitely enjoy it even if you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, etc., as it is suitable for all ages.
The story is absolutely captivating. A slow start introduces readers to the Samoan culture – you get to know the country and its people through Leila’s eyes. Everything – certain places, clothing, food, and even everyday life – is so richly and evocatively described that you can easily visualize every part of this tale. The second half of the novel, on the other hand, is action-packed. Literally. Mysteries, suspense, twists and turns – you will get it all! And I can assure you that you will not be bored even for a second. Heart palpitations? Yes, they are quite common amongst Telesā readers!
When it comes to the characters, they are a mixed bag. Leila at first seems like a typical American teenager who has her own problems and worries, but eventually turns out to be a very strong and mature young woman. Daniel is a true Samoan gentleman, a little bit old-fashioned but definitely easy to fall in love with. Jason, an all-American guy just wishing to help a person in need, could be a model friend. And there is also Nafanua, a very complex person full of dark secrets from the past. Every character is different, every character is great. But there is one that stands out from the crowd – Simone. The first ever fa’afafine in a young adult fiction book. What a fantastic creation! Absolutely brilliant and oh-so worthy of your attention.
Equally good is the author’s writing style. Well, it must run in the family. Taking into account that Lani’s uncle is the great Albert Wendt, you couldn’t expect anything less from her. The story is told in a witty and mostly light-hearted manner, occasionally tinged with a subtle dose of melancholy. Real-life dialogues adorned with the author’s fantastic sense of humour (yes, prepare yourself for a laugh or two) balance out extended descriptions, making a novel a pleasure to read.
‘Telesa: The Covenant Keeper’ is a marvelous book. I would recommend it to everyone who wants to get immersed in a good piece of literature. Even if you are not a fan of paranormal romance genre, give it a try! You won’t regret it. The idea of incorporating Samoan mythology into the storyline was well-aimed and gave the novel a very fresh feeling. It is original, it is unique, it is simply amazing.