chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

The latest volume of Twelve Kingdoms once again picks up the story of Yoko, the former Japanese schoolgirl who becomes ruler of the Kingdom of Kei. It also introduces two other female characters of roughly the same age: Suzu, who had just been sold into indentured servitude in the Japan of the past when she tumbles into the world of the Twelve Kingdoms, and Shoukei, daughter of a tyrant who is killed by one of his ministers. All three spend most of the volume learning and evolving.

Yoko is not being taken seriously by her ministers, and she herself realizes that that she is making poor decisions. Like many rulers of legend, she decides that a sojourn in disguise as a citizen of her new land will teach her more about what's really going on. Suzu, after some some quickly summarized misadventures, ends up as servant of a whimsically cruel oracle who mistreats her. Although Suzu manages to escape, it's very much a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire. Meanwhile, Shoukei is removed to a remote village where she is given a new identity as an orphan. Unfortunately, her true identity as a tyrant's child is not kept secret enough, and her life becomes a torment until she, too, escapes.

For the first half of the book, I was actually quite exasperated with both Suzu and Shoukei - which is, I think, intentional. Ono does not shy from putting her characters through nastily realistic horrors as transformational experiences. Kinder methods might have eventually worked similar changes in both Shoukei and Suzu, but not as quickly. By the end of the story, the three young women are testing their new skills and outlooks in a dangerous political situation that eventually brings them together

The translation remains awkward, and everyone involved in quality control for this volume deserve a big slap in the face. There are typographical errors - especially toward the end, as though the editors had been running out of time - and one entire line has all the words run together so that it's almost unreadable. At least Ono's illustrations are as charming as ever.

Other Reviews of This:
by meganbmoore

chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (shigure-book)

On a holy mountain in the center of the Twelve Kingdoms, a fantastical creature - a chimera by definition, but called a lamia in the story - is born for the express purpose of nurturing the next-born kirin, one of the sacred beings who are the only ones who can make a king. She is given the name Sansi and settles down to wait for the lodestar of her life - whom she already calls by his formal name, Taiki - to finish gestation and be born. But a magical storm of great force blows across the mountain, and the embryonic kirin ends up in our world, in the womb of a normal human woman. Sansi is left bereft for 10 years.

Taiki is born a human child, into a troubled family that doesn't understand him. As we meet him, he's undergoing a punishment of being forced to stand outside without a coat, in the falling snow. It's not too surprising that when he suddenly sees something strange in the narrow space between the house and the shed - a human arm and hand, protruding from a space too small for such a limb to fit - he goes to investigate. And finds himself pulled into another world.

This story is a journey mainly of the mind and the heart - although we also learn a great deal of the mythology and ways of the Twelve Kingdoms. Taiki, raised to think of himself as human being who seemed to lack most of the attributes his family desired, is suddenly pampered and cherished - and charged with the destiny of entire kingdom. Will he ever be able to tap into the powers that a kirin rightfully born into its animal form knows how to use instinctively? And how can he possibly make a wise choice among the supplicants who seek the throne of the Kingdom of Tai? Sansi, born to essentially serve as his mother, is similarly left adrift by the arrival of her 10-year-old charge, whom she never got to nurse as a infant kirin (are they called fawns? - or kids, maybe?) and whom she cannot teach what he needs to know.

Despite the weirdness of the Twelve Kingdoms cosmology and biology - the way that both children and young animals are born still flips me out - I was touched by both Sansi's and Taiki's situations. When Taiki makes his choice - and nearly drives himself mad with doubts over it - it was all too easy to identify with his pain and bewilderment. The resolution of the situation is emotionally satisfying and involves some of my favorite characters from volume 1.

Read more ... with spoilers! )
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (shigure-book)

(Yay! I has Intarwebs again!)

Teenaged Yoko Nakajima seems to have a pretty normal life. She does well but not outstandingly at her all-girls' school, allows her friends to copy her homework when they need it, and lives a comfortable life with her parents. However, "seems" is the operative word. She's smart enough that she should be attending a better school - but her father forbids it. Her "friends" only like her because she's biddable and helps them. Her father only wants to make sure that she never shames him or draws attention to herself. Her mother loves her but won't buck her father's wishes. And her teachers are convinced that she's a troublemaker - despite her immaculate behavior and good grades - because of her flaming red hair, which they're convinced she dyes.

Recently Yoko's sleep has been haunted by terrifying nightmares in which she's being stalked by horrible monsters. Every night, they get closer. She's losing sleep, her grades are suffering, and her teachers decide she's been staying out late clubbing. After she's humiliated for falling asleep in class and has to stay after school to talk with her teachers, Yoko's convinced that life can't get much worse.

Then a golden-haired man interrupts her student-teacher conference, warning of impending doom and demanding a pledge from her. Almost immediately thereafter, all the windows in the room blow out, and the monsters from Yoko's nightmares show up on the roof of the school. In short order, Yoko finds herself in another world - the Twelve Kingdoms - where her home is only a myth, and she is pursued across days and nights by more monsters and demons. Her only salvation is the sword the golden-haired man has given her and the creature that he causes to possess her body so that she can use the weapon. She faces betrayal after betrayal, escape after narrow escape, all sorts of physical and emotional privation, and finally comes face to face with the destiny for which she was born.

I found this a hard book to like, but it's grown on me after a second reading. The lands of the Twelve Kingdoms are governed by a set of fascinating rules, some of which make mythological sense and some of which are utter crack (wait until you find out where babies come from!), but it's all handled with a passionate sincerity that carries you along - if you let it.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

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