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Novel Magic: Hawaii’s Deadly NightMarchers

Seeking Refuge

by Sarah P. Blanchard

“Nightmarchers in Honolulu? Nah, too crowded, too noisy,” the old man told me at his fourth grandbaby’s first luau. “On Oahu there are too many living people. You want to know about huakaʻi pō, you stay right here on the Big Island. Drive out Saddle Road, maybe go Hale Pohāku on a misty night. Stop and listen, maybe you hear them. Maybe not. Many times they go silent in the mist. Awe, that’s all I can say.”

The kapuna—elders—are sometimes reluctant to talk about the huakaʻi pō and ʻoiʻo, the nightmarchers and the spirit ranks.  These are the deadly ghosts of tribal warriors who protected the ʻaliʻi, the sacred monarchs and high-ranking tribal chiefs.

On certain nights after sunset, the nightmarchers leave their burial sites on land and in the ocean.

Dressed for battle, carrying torches and clubs, they drift over land as a ghostly escort for their leaders who wish to return to the ancient battle sites. The undead nightmarchers are brutal in their roles as protectors of the aliʻi:  Mortals who dare to look at the monarch’s phantom may be immediately incinerated, their ashes left to drift on the wind.

Fear of the Nightmarchers is rooted in the history of Hawaiʻi.  When alive, those same ancient monarchs held the power to kill a commoner for breaking any of their complicated taboos.

In life, at least, there was a chance at salvation. If the rule-breaker completes the difficult life-or-death journey to a puʻu honua—a place of refuge—all would be forgiven.

In my novel Drawn from Life, there are no nightwatchers (sorry!), but there might be a place of refuge for Emma Gillen, my very troubled protagonist. She’s helped in her quest by a rookie detective from Hawaiʻi, Koa Szczepanski.

He plays a supporting role in this book, but he’s told me he’d like a bigger stage in the next one.

Drawn from Life by Sarah P. Blanchard

Life-changing tragedy. Conflicting memories. Is she a killer or a victim?

Emma Gillen is haunted by guilt. Almost a decade after surviving a deadly car crash on a remote Appalachian mountain, she’s held hostage by long-term damage to her body and no recollection of that tragic event. Then her volatile cousin Lucy returns, needing money and bringing chaos. Emma must decide if she should bargain with the beautiful, untrustworthy Lucy—a possible witness to the crash—to uncover their shared past.

All bargains carry risk. As Lucy grows more desperate and greedy, Emma suspects there’s more at stake than just money. Struggling with shame, night terrors, and her own unreliable memory, Emma accepts help from a compassionate detective. But the choice remains hers alone: Can she find the strength to free herself from the danger of her cousin’s destructive power, or will Lucy bring everything crashing down?

If you like vivid characters, dark themes, and high-stakes psychological mysteries, you’ll love this thrilling tale of redemption, resilience, and courage.

Available in paperback and/or ebook on all major platforms, including indiebound.org, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

ProTip: Visit Sarah’s Website to read the first two chapters of Drawn from Life and to find out more about Sarah’s writing.

Meet Sarah Blanchard

A native of rural Connecticut, Sarah P. Blanchard graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.A. in literature and from Nichols College in Massachuetts with an M.B.A. in marketing.

Many of her short stories, poems, and essays have been published in magazines and literary journals. She was a finalist for the 2021 Doris Betts Fiction Prize; her short story collection, Playing Chess with Bulls, was published in December 2023. Sarah taught writing and communications for five years at the University of Hawaii-Hilo and has led many fiction and poetry workshops. She also taught fiction writing in the College for Seniors program in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She also worked for many years in media with stints as a magazine editor, radio news reporter, textbook editor, and talk show host.

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