Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (MG, YA)

Uehashi, Nahoko. 1996/2008. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. Translated into English by Cathy Hirano. Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu. Scholastic.

High quality. You'll notice it from the start. This book is very pleasing--to the eyes, yes, but also to the touch. But I'm reviewing the book, not the book jacket, so I need to get back on task.

At the moment the royal procession reached the Yamakage Bridge, Balsa's destiny took an unexpected turn.

Who is Balsa? Why should you care? Well, Balsa is the star of Nahoko Uehashi's Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. She is a body guard, a female warrior. She is paid to protect. Paid to fight. As to why you should care? This book is a fun fantasy novel with lots of action and adventure. Originally published in Japan in 1996, the book has at last been translated into English and published in America.

When Balsa saves the Prince's life (second prince, not the crown prince), the second queen (second wife, mother of the second prince) shows her gratitude by inviting Balsa to her home, her palace. An offer Balsa cannot ignore. Though she knows that this invitation comes with a hidden cost. The Queen wants something from her. Wants it badly. The Queen feels her son is in danger. She wants Balsa to take the prince, Chagum, and run. Why is he in danger? Well, I could go there. But I'd likely confuse you. Or else you wouldn't believe me. If I told you the prince had a magical/spiritual egg inside him waiting to hatch? And that the whole book resolves around protecting this Prince/egg? You might think it a rather odd plot twist. But it works. And well. It's exciting. It's well written.

This is the first book in a long and seemingly well-beloved fantasy series in Japan. (Beloved enough to inspire anime and manga adaptations. According to Wikipedia, the series will air in the United States in the summer of 09.)

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Zibilee 8:49 PM  

Very cool review. This sounds like something that's quirky but fun. I am going to put it on my summer list. Thanks!

Anonymous,  8:09 PM  

Thanks for a nice review that gives away enough but not too much. Moribito is destined to become a classic IMO, but unfortunately it seems the target audience in Japan receives the novels well, but young people in the US are not mentally mature enough to tolerate books of this depth, especially when it explores the culture, traditions, and mythical history of Asia to a degree that requires more than a passing glance (i.e. it's not a Naruto manga). Scholastic printed this first of the series, and the second 'Guardian of the Darkness' (which I also enjoyed immensely), but called it quits at that point due to poor sales in the US. That's a shame because the books are beautifully written and thoughtfully translated. I suppose eventually the entire series all make it into an English printing, but I want them now! OK, I'm an American too - instant gratification gimmie! ;)

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