starlady: Hei in the trees + text saying "in the TREES" (this is an in-joke)
Uehashi Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Darkness. Trans. Cathy Hirano. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2009.

So I read the first book in this series, Guardian of the Spirit, last month, and I liked it pretty well. But seriously, this second book is so much better! I was surprised at how much more I enjoyed Darkness, and I am doubly sad that the series has been put on hold in English due to weak sales. If you like these books, tell Arthur A. Levine that you want to see more of them! [personal profile] nijibug has some posts relating to the series in English here and here.

Oh yeah, the plot. So at the end of the last book our heroine the spearwoman Balsa decided it was high time she went back to the mountainous country of Kanbal, a fairly obvious cod-Korea, from which she was driven by the murderous intrigues of the King nearly twenty-five years earlier, when she was a girl of six. Balsa and her foster father Jiguro lived on the run until his death, Jiguro being forced to kill his old friends whom the king sent after them to keep both of them alive. What these events cost everyone involved--Balsa, Jiguro, their families, and the kingdom of Kanbal itself--is very much at stake, since as one of the King's Spears Jiguro had a prime part to play in the bidecadal ceremony in which the Kanbalese receive the precious stone luisha from the King under the Mountains so that they can feed their poor, mostly non-arable country.

Obviously the plot of this book is a lot more personal, and for my money I'm always more fascinated by the evils that people can do to each other--how easily truth is twisted, trust betrayed, passion subverted by ambition--than the generic "monster hunting a kid!" plot of the first volume. Balsa continues to be even more awesome, and the other native races of Kanbal, the Herders and the Ermine Riders, have a central part to play in the country's fate. Also I think the translation is less clunky this time around too.

I'd love to read more of Balsa's adventures. Next time I go to Book-Off I have another author to look for.
starlady: (king)
Uehashi Nahoko. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit.. Trans. Cathy Hirano. New York: Arthur A. Levine, 2008.

I read this book because [personal profile] meganbmoore liked it. I liked it too.

But first let me indulge my inner literal bibliophile: OMG PRETTY BOOK IS PRETTY. The cover! The paper stock! The two-color printing! The interior illustrations and decorations! The slip jacket! Arthur A. Levine does books right.

Apparently this novel has already been turned into a manga and an anime--has anyone read or watched either? What did you think? Me, I liked the story, but I wasn't wild about the translation, though I've requested the next book in the series from my library despite its weaknesses.

I guess that means I liked the story! I did, really; wandering spearwoman Balsa is minding her own business crossing a bridge in not!Kyoto one day when she sees a kid fall off the bridge upstream reserved for royalty, dives in to save him, and realizes later that he is Chagum, the Second Prince. Later Chagum's mother the Second Queen reveals to Balsa that Chagum's father the Mikado is trying to kill his son because the water spirit of the country has laid its egg in Chagum, making him the Guardian of the Spirit, a Moribito. Balsa, who is a moribito specializing in people, agrees to take the prince away from the capital and out of the clutches of his father's Hunters, who are in fact at the will of the Star Readers, who more or less control the government of the country. For allies, Balsa has her old friends Torogai and Tanda, magic weavers of the country's indigenous Yakoo population. Can they keep Chagum safe from the Hunters and from Rarunga, the egg eater, and deliver the country from a hundred-year drought?

Seirei no Moribito ) And, you know, we need a) more fantasy in translation; b) more fantasy where women aren't punished for being badass warriors; c) more fantasy by chromatic authors; and d) more Asian fantasy, so on all these counts I have to recommend the book.


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