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Book Reviews

Evie's War Reviews

Magpies Magazine

Trevor Agnew

This is a remarkably moving account of the war as seen by those overworked and under-appreciated people who provided medical care for the wounded and dying. A large cast is well marshalled and the result is totally convincing. Evie's War is Anna Mackenzie's best novel yet.


Jean Bennett

The author invested years of intensive research and writing to accomplish this exceptional historical novel. Encompassing the sweep of the First World War, the book is a tour de force.

Bob's Books Blog

Bob Docherty

This excellent novel about a New Zealand girl’s experiences in World War 1 can only be described as epic. Written by Anna Mackenzie while in residency in Belgium, by her own admission she became engrossed and immersed in World War 1 to the point of obsession. I am glad she did because this novel is one incredible account of the Great War and of English Society.


Evie is 18 when she and her parents and older brother Edmund take a passage to UK with the intention of touring Europe. The shot that rang around the World changed all that ... Evie gets involved as a nurse treating the hordes of young men with their horrendous wounds while the newspapers are full of the glories of battle.

Evie is courted by a wounded officer and in spite of the raw reality all around them the relationship is totally innocent and refreshingly naive.


Each year of the war from 1914 through to 1918 is depicted in diary entries from Evie’s journal. Historical facts are included in the diary entries and changes in society and perceptions of the war change. Edmund goes to war and what an intrepid tale his is.

Evie herself goes to Belgium as a driver and nurse for the whole of 1918 and the true horrors of this war are portrayed through the men she treats in the most primitive of conditions.


Superbly described ... Anna Mackenzie has clearly put her heart and soul into this novel and I think it is her best. So far!

Bay Buzz

Louise Ward, Wardinis Bookshop

‘Evie’s War’ is a many layered and incredibly well researched novel of some depth. The character development is rapid and authentic – the sudden shocks that war brings have inevitable effects on the cast of the story. The Evie we know at the end of the book is a young woman much changed by her experiences and as the reader we feel that we have been there with her.



Evie’s War by Anna Mackenzie is a fantastic story about a young woman’s experience through World War 1. Anna Mackenzie is a New Zealand author and she has put a New Zealand touch on this story which I enjoyed.


The story is written as Evie’s journal, and this way you get a feel for what the war is like but from a peripheral story rather than as a soldier right amongst things. Evie ends up volunteering as a nurse and through this is exposed to a lot of the results of war. Initially she is based in Cambridge but after experiencing personal tragedy she ends up in France and Belgium and experiences an even more shocking reality of war from just behind the front lines.

Best Bookclub in the Bay

Possibly the best book about the war we've read. Fantastic. Everyone should read it.

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Rev DP

Donnel's Promise Reviews

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Booksellers NZ

Angela Oliver

A strong follow-up to 'Cattra's Legacy', this instalment establishes Risha as a worthy player in court politics. … Risha is an admirable character, and many of the females are portrayed in bold, active roles. Whilst there are hints of potential future romance, the fact that this lies secondary to Risha's personal growth lends power to the story and portrays her as a stronger role model to her teenage audience. I enjoyed both books, this one especially, and am eager to see where Risha's journey takes her next.

Bob's Books Blog

Bob Docherty

This is a novel of intrigue, of spies, of informers, of traitors, of evil and thankfully of goodness, loyalty and love. Beautifully told by Anna MacKenzie and the real treat for me was the land of Elgard. I never tired of reading about Caledon Water or the river El or Lacstone marsh or the harbour towns of Le Marc and Havre.

Takahe Magazine

Justin Harrison

Anna Mackenzie’s eighth novel, Donnel’s Promise, is a well-crafted fantasy novel, with elements of adventure, political intrigue and much more… the story spoke very well on the many different types of strength there can be in people, despite their circumstance. Many of the characters in the story have flaws and weaknesses, making them more relatable than some in more heroic fantasies. But rather than dwell on the weaknesses, Mackenzie chooses to let the varying strengths of her characters shine through. This gave the story a depth of credibility, and shines a light of hope through the darkness, giving the reader a sense that there is still a chance the heroine and her companions could turn the drastic situation they find themselves in around. This combination is subtle, well executed, and makes for great reading


Jean Bennet

The sequel to Cattra’s Legacy is a complex tale peopled with a large cast of characters. Readers absorbed by the first book will be pleased to be reacquainted with many of the individuals who previously helped Risha to discover her heritage in the lands of Elgard.
The novel is well-written with crisp dialogue and descriptive passages that evoke the vast countryside and its inhabitants. Fight scenes are fast, furious and bloody. The main characters are strong-minded and courageous with their own challenges to face.

Kiwis Book Reviews


The sequel to Cattra’s Legacy is a fast‐paced story full of action and adventure. Risha is no swooning heroine and displays the same determination and compassion as in her first tale. The characters are well‐rounded and likeable, with the females showing strength and showing they can look after themselves. I want more ... This can be read as a stand‐alone but I urge you to read Cattra’s Legacy first as the story is brilliant. This is a magical world with kick‐arse heroines, an exciting sequel that is a wonderful read and suitable for teens and upwards.

Random House Reviews


I really enjoyed the sequel to Cattra's Legacy. I thought the character development was fantastic, thought provoking and the reader was left wanting more. The plot was complex and yet easy to follow which made it incredibly satisfying and I was very disappointed when I finished (in less than 5 hours - it was very addictive). I would absolutely recommend this novel to every young adult and adult - even if fantasy isn't your go-to genre I guarantee you will still love this book. I would like to congratulate the author, Anna Mackenzie, on writing a sequel that brings so much more to Risha's story and creates such a lasting effect on readers.

Peter Ledingham

Cattra's Legacy and its sequel, Donnel's promise, are very well-crafted yarns. A fantasy world inhabited by real people with real emotions and real dilemmas, with elements of magic and the supernatural woven in as well. Highly recommended, and not only for young adults ...

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Cattra's Legacy Reviews

Rev CL

The Best 50 Children's Books of 2013

NZ Listener

 Mackenzie’s novel, set in a Macbeth-like medieval kingdom, follows homeless orphan Risha as she sets out to discover the truth about her dead mother. Making alliances as she travels south, she learns skills of diplomacy that will stand her in good stead when her status is elevated. An eloquent, richly rewarding blend of romance, warfare and domestic life in the Middle Ages that will have readers queuing up for the sequel. 


Adele Broadbent

Beautiful writing from one of New Zealand’s most award winning authors.

NZ Books

Bill Nagelkerke

Mackenzie is adept at opening up Risha’s world for her protagonist and for the reader alike. The author uses language judiciously and precisely, weighing each word carefully for its impact and import. Like Risha, readers will have to be alert in order to be able to make sense of events, and to understand the complicated politics of the royal houses that fight for dominance in Elgard. But this intelligent story is one of personalities as much as politics and Risha’s coming-of-age will have wide appeal, especially as she learns to ride, fight and relate to a wide range of people. The book ends with a fearsome battle in which Risha’s new-found strength and sense of identity are severely tested. The brief period of quietude that follows sets the scene for the sequel that is in preparation. And Elgard is a world worth returning to. Highly recommended.

Bob's Books Blog

Bob Docherty

There is action, treachery and intrigue aplenty. Brilliantly told and written by Anna MacKenzie. The secret of all good novels is a good idea well told. This fits the bill.

NZ Books

David Hill

Anna MacKenzie offers a gutsy girl protagonist, and a quasi-medieval setting … Risha is an excellent character, authentic, creditably complex, always developing … The story is energetic, evocative, steps boldly across times and distances.

Oamaru Mail

Linda Hall

Cattra's Legacy is a spellbinding adventure story that I couldn't put down. When I did manage to tear myself away the main character, Risha, kept popping into my head. Mackenzie is a wonderful storyteller. She takes readers to another world with her descriptive prose and powerful story lines. There's friendship, war, betrayal and romance in this excellent read. Can't wait for part two.


This is one of the best books I have read in ages. I read until late to finish it, then picked it back up the next day to re-read my favourite parts. Anna MacKenzie is a fantastic writer, and the world she creates is vivid and perfectly rendered in every detail.
There is lots of action and adventure throughout the book, but for me what stands Cattra's Legacy apart is the emotional potency towards the end, as the main character finds out more about herself and her place in the world.
If you like fantasy, strong female characters, beautiful imagery and a dramatic plot that unfolds at just the right pace then you'll love this book. I can't wait for the sequel!

Dr Laura Marshall

Absorbing captivating read. I am just glad there is a sequel as I am not ready to leave the characters behind!


Kay Ward

There is something about Anna MacKenzie’s books that draw me from page to page much later in the night than I intend! The plot is never lost or slow and leads me towards the climax. Despite being fantasy, Anna uses language which stirs memories and images for me that make the scenes seem reality in my mind. Really enjoyed this book and can’t wait for the next one.



Cattra's Legacy was simply awesome. I absolutely adored the characters, they were amazeballs … I’m very much looking forward to more adventures, that's for sure!!

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Sea-wreck Stranger Reviews


The NZ Herald

Camilla During

The most satisfying YA book for me this year was The Sea-wreck Stranger by Anna Mackenzie. This is a beguiling story about a girl who finds a man washed up on her windswept island. Where does he come from and how can Ness keep him safe from the superstitious community she lives in? Mackenzie’s prose is outstanding and I am very much looking forward to reading the sequel.

Magpies Magazine

Ellen Carter

Haunting science fantasy which won the 2008 NZ Post YA Fiction Honour Award and one of three New Zealand books included in the International youth Library’s 2008 White raven selection.

Kirsty Murray


I love Ness, her story, her strength, and her passionate intensity. A sea-wrecked stranger, an island of dark secrets and a heroine who isn’t afraid to discover the difficult truth make for a gripping, unputdownable read.

Australian Bookseller & Publisher

The sense of ‘protagonist versus the world’ will appeal to adolescent readers. Present tense gives the story a breathlessness to complement the themes of fear and paranoia. The Sea-Wreck Stranger’s best achievement is in its dealing with environmental themes. Its sense of place, and the suggestion that nature is bigger than us, underlie the narrative like an extra presence or character.

Bay Weekend News, Whakatane

Diane McCarthy

Young adult fiction at its best – beautifully written and full of challenge.

Fiction Focus

Joyce Michael

Realistic dystopia. A gripping tale of mystery, adventure and intrigue. … Written in first person, present tense, the story is powerfully told and grips the reader’s imagination. Recommneded reading.

Tania Roxborough


Unputdownable ... Buy it for the English department as a class set, multiple copies for the library (because there will be a queue) and as a prezzie for the girl or boy, 11 years up.

The Sun Bookshop, Yarraville

Hannah Francis

The sense of 'protagonist versus the world' will appeal to adolescent readers. Present tense gives the story a breathlessness to complement the themes of fear and paranoia. The Sea-wreck Stranger's best achievement is in its dealing with environmental themes. Its sense of place, and the suggestion that nature is bigger than us, underlie the narrative like an extra presence or character.


This is one of the best YA novels in recent years. While post apocalyptic, it is not dominated by a sense of doom and in fact is uplifted by Mackenzie's talent for descriptive prose and convincing dialogue. Her character development is great and the plot moves along nicely. This is a good choice for students- the quality of the writing is not compromised by its accessibility to young readers.


Clara van Wel

I liked the character of Ness because I found her very realistic and believable. She was not one of the invincible heroes we see in so many books these days. I could imagine myself and many of my friends acting the same way in her situation … I would very much recommend this book for all ages.


Sea-wreck Stranger is the first of Anna Mackenzie's books that I've read and I'm very glad that there are plenty more to come… I'm well outside the target age group but writing of this quality shouldn't be reserved for the young! … you'll be drawn in to the well-paced plot, the trials of Ness, our strong minded heroine, and the cast of beautifully crafted characters. A great read for young and not-so-young adults. Ebony Hill, here I come...

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Rev EH

Ebony Hill Reviews

Ebony Hill         Books           Top of the Page


Descriptive prose, strong character development, credible dialogue and a good plot ensure a fast read - or a compelling one for the not-so-fast readers. But wait, there's more... the final book in the trilogy should be added to the YA reader's wishlist.


Catherine George

A thought pro­vok­ing novel about loss and choices. The char­ac­ters are vividly depic­ted, and the writ­ing descript­ive and tight. I would highly recom­mend both Ebony Hill and the Sea–Wreck Stanger for Year 8 up.

National Library of NZ


Written in the first person and in the present tense, Anna Mackenzie’s writing has an immediacy that kept me involved and deeply interested in Ness’s thoughts and reactions. There is a mixture of action and internal reflection that work effectively together to create a compelling novel, with interesting characters whose inner life is subtly made apparent. Highly recommended.

Radio NZ


Anna Mackenzie’s writing is very balanced... very dramatic. It flows smoothly and seems very real. I read it for hours, I couldn’t stop. It was compulsive.


Rebecca Stevenson

Great holiday read. Thank goodness I brought Finder's Shore with me!

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Finder's Shore Reviews

Rev FS

Magpies Magazine

Trevor Agnew

Some novels are so good that we beg for sequels, in order to meet the characters again and find out what happened to them. The Sea-wreck Stranger (2007) created an unexpected but plausible post-holocaust world of tiny, mutually-hostile settlements. Ebony Hill (2010) showed how suspicion led to further violence that threatened to extinguish the last sparks of civilisation on the mainland. In Finder’s Shore, Anna Mackenzie completes this moving trilogy by bringing Ness back to the grim island of Dunnett where her adventure began.

Three years have elapsed since Ness saved Dev’s life and helped him escape from Dunnett. Now Ness is a fully-trained medic, hardened by her experiences during the fighting around Ebony Hill. When she makes the dangerous rail trip back to Vidya (surviving ambush) Ness discovers that the government leaders have agreed that the mainland must resume trading with Dunnett. Food is short a, the back-country farm settlements are menaced by marauders and there is little choice. Dev is fearful that Vidya’s leaders don’t understand the total control exerted by the autocratic Colm and his followers, who dominate Dunnett as its spiritual and political leaders. It is against this tense background that Ness and Ronan agree to see if negotiations are possible. They slip ashore near Leewood, ness’s childhood home, but much has changed in three years. Colm has confiscated her uncle’s farm and her cousin Sophie has adjusted to the changed conditions but is still bitterly resentful, ‘Your defection nearly destroyed us Ness.’  Their undercover mission puts Ness and Ronan’s lives in danger as they struggle with the power of Colm’s rule. With informants everywhere on the island, there is death and violence ahead. Despite this sombre background, Finder’s Shore comes to an optimistic conclusion with Ness discovering an alternative way by which their fragile civilisation can be maintained, and a new hope is born.

The experience of re-reading all three books has confirmed the skill of the author as a compelling storyteller. Ness is an appealing heroine and the story brings her to romantic fulfilment as well as personal success. The full story is a saga of survival and the quest to keep knowledge alive, which makes it an interesting analogy for our own times. This is a splendid ending to an intriguing and original trilogy.


Rebecca Stevenson

A great conclusion to the Sea-wreck Stranger trilogy. A fast-paced narrative weaves the threads of Ness’s strictured past on Dunnett and troubled present in Vidya and Ebony Hill with a hopeful future…


There are few YA and Teen writers who can traverse the emotional dilemmas they put before their young protaganists without slipping into overstated and patronising cliches. Mackenzie is one of the few. … Mackenzie has nailed it again.

Timaru Herald

Sue Maxwell

Stand-out novel from award-winning Hawke’s Bay author Anna Mackenzie, Finder’s Shore wraps up her trilogy set in a future where widespread catastrophe has decimated populations and poisoned seas. …Themes of loss and separation, acceptance and new beginnings are explored. The pace is fast and furious and dangers abound.

The action and drama have a realistic edginess. The characterisation is good and the language rich. This book is as strong as the first two in the trilogy: Sea-wreck Stranger and Ebony Hill, both of which won awards. All three were hard to put down and would make great holiday reading.

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Shadow of the Mountain Reviews

Rev SotM

Magpies Magazine

Ellen Carter

16-yr old Geneva’s family has been torn apart by tragedy and, although they are living amidst stunning surroundings, they are barely functioning. Geneva is determine to fight her demons by attempting a challenging climb on a local mountain and joins a rock climbing group to hone her skills. To the other climbers Geneva is an enigma, obviously skilled but reticent about her past. As flashbacks slowly reveal the reason for her trauma, Geneva cautiously learns to trust her new friends.

Anna MacKenzie writes confidently, realistically capturing the interplay and emotional intensity of Geneva’s relationships as well as the physicality of the sport which brings her, too, to the brink if disaster. Highly recommended.

The Word, Dunedin Public Libraries

Ruth Chapman

This is a great story about the pain of living, of love and loss, life and death. Recommended for young adults and perhaps their parents might like to read it too.

NZ Books

James Norcliffe

Anna Mackenzie writes the story in the third person, although the focus is relentlessly on Geneva. This allows the writer skilfully to withhold information and develop the growing intrigue, which is shared not only by the reader but also the thoroughly decent Angus, who becomes Geneva’s boyfriend. Decency is a feature of both these protagonists, and both are guided throughout the story by a well-functioning moral compass.

Mackenzie is particularly good with the unravelling of the friendship between Geneva and the shallow Kitty. Kitty’s mother, Sonya, on the other hand, is sensitively drawn and utterly convincing. Shadow of the Mountain grips the reader’s interest at the outset and thereafter rarely falters. The emotional and technical business of rock climbing and its obsessions are made very real and provide an ideal backdrop for the novel’s ultimate confrontation of physical and personal challenge. That the challenge itself is in the end a compromised one is as it should be, and far more satisfying than easy heroics.

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Out on the Edge Reviews

Rev OotE

The Marlborough Express

Book Reviews

Sometimes I am lucky to be able to review a book that is well written with a riveting story. A book that is impossible to put down until the final word on the final page has been read. And then after feeling a satisfying sense of closure you feel annoyed that the reading experience has finished because the book was so good.

This is how I felt about Anna Mackenzie’s second book, Out on the Edge. I felt a degree of anticipation when I saw the author’s name as I thoroughly enjoyed her first title, High Tide.

Out on the Edge is a hard hitting, gritty story about the far-reaching effects of domestic violence. Ali’s life is pretty good; there’s not a lot that can faze her, or so she thought.

Anna Mackenzie doesn’t pull her punches, she confronts the issue of domestic violence honestly and head-on providing the reader with a glimpse of the tragic and far-reaching consequences. Out on the Edge will appeal to both male and female readers as the novel provides both Ali’s and Garry’s short in alternate chapters. It is suited to readers aged 13 years and older and I really hope Anna Mackenzie has started her next novel.

Sunday Life + View

Margie Thomson

A fast-paced story for teenage girls and boys, Anna Mackenzie’s second novel is a sharply insightful, complex tale of domestic abuse and love-against-the-odds that nevertheless encompasses the wild, bush-covered landscapes and unpredictable sea that she demonstrated such a feeling for in High Tide.

Sixteen-year old Alison’s composure and togetherness is shaken when a boy from her class, Garry, turns up at her place badly beaten. Alison must feel her way between conflicting ideas about the “right” thing to do, at the same time as struggling with powerful new feelings of attraction. Garry in turn has to come to terms with his own sense of right and wrong, balancing self-preservation against the needs of others.

Teens will love this book, with its acknowledgement of the extreme difficulties some people face in their daily lives, its non-jugdement and wise sensitivity towards young love, and its practical characters.

HB Today, 48 Hours

Catherine Woulfe

An honest, gentle, thoughtful story that gives young people the respect they deserve …. The love story that develops is as real and envy-inducing as any I’ve read. And the insight into domestic violence, terrifying. Not since picking up my first John Marsden have I been so excited about ‘meeting’ a new author.

Fiction Focus

Esmé Kidd

Although a difficult topic, the journey of Alison and Garry is told with a hint of humour, clarity, honesty and hope, and I particularly enjoyed the typical frustrations of teenagers, their interaction with adults, and their perspectives on life. A great read, capable of sparking discussion on domestic violence and general sense of worth, its attractive cover will appeal to teenagers.

Wanganui Chronicle

Book Reviews

It is not often that I have the excuse to read teen fiction, and if this novel is typical of the genre then it is a great form of escapism and should be indulged more often.


Jenny Millar, Logan Park High School

This book deals with domestic violence, the discovery of love, the awareness that decisions made for the best of intentions can have unimagined and dangerous consequences, and the value of family love and support … Recommended for year 9 to year 11 students.



I LOVE THIS BOOK! I have read it hundred times because I just like it so much. I think it was the first chapter book I read, and it was the book the first got me into reading.

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High Tide Reviews

Rev HT

NZ Herald

Margie Thomson

This is great. A thriller whose tension builds to a genuinely shocking and unexpected climax, involving a group of teenagers who are believable without losing their individual interest. Eight teenagers set out for a week’s tramping with a trusted teacher. Something goes horribly wrong and the dominos start tumbling. Mackenzie’s characters show extraordinary toughness, determination, loyalty and responsibility, yet they’re quite convincing, made human by their blistered feet, their vulnerability, their sheer exhaustion and stubbornness. Mackenzie has a terrific feeling for dramatic pace, and for the emotional and physical landscape her beleaguered teens are stumbling through.

NZ Books

Raymond Huber

The teenaged characters are especially well draw and despite a large cast, Mackenzie gives them quite distinct and likeable personalities. Cell phones and rescue technology are making it harder for writers to create these survival scenarios, but this story succeeds by making the reader care enough about the characters. An impressive debut novel.

Ruth Harding (Teacher)

It is an awesome book of adventure and having to grow up FAST! The kids lapped up every character flaw and turn around... never predicted the storyline.

What the fans say:

My reading group at school just finished it and we loved it. I wish I had my own copy so I can read it again and again! … It is my most favourite book in the world.


Catherine Hade

I really liked the book I even did a report on it. I read it like 10 times!!

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