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Winner of the Margaret Mahy Award Some rivers should not be swum in. Some rivers hold secrets that can never be told.
Te Arepa is an adventurous Maori boy, bound to the history, customs and rituals of his people. Yet when he comes upon a giant eel while fishing, he is convinced the creature is a taniwha, or water demon, and follows it. Yet what Te Arepa finds in the river is far different, far more sinister. And it will change his life forever.
Te Arepa has always been curious about experiencing life beyond his tribe. His wishes seem granted when he is awarded a scholarship at a prestigious boarding school, far away from the Maori. Leaving behind his family and their traditions, Te Arepa sets out to discover a strange new world with customs of its own...as well as new enemies.
When he arrives at school, Te Arepa finds the freedom and everything it offers intoxicating. But to fit in, he realizes that he must shed his identity, culture, and even his name. And he comes to realize that what the water demon showed him in the darkness of the river that day changed him, and that freedom comes with a heavy price.