Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Author: Nahoko Uehashi
Reading Level: 4th to 8th grade

Pages: 272
Publisher: Arthur Levine/Scholastic
Edition: Hardcover, 2008 (ARC)

I posted this on Goodreads but want to highlight this one specifically here… for anyone searching for a good fantasy that is not the typical English original — this is a GREAT new offering:

It’s a book that I can feel entirely enthusiastic about recommending to children who look for fast-paced and action packed stories with magic.

It’s a book that features unusual characters: the protagonist is a 30-year-old warrior woman who wields a spear with great skills and who has a rich back story and an intriguing future story to look forward to.

It does not alter its sensibilities for an American audience.

It has incredibly visual action scenes (yes, they do read like Animes, but this was turned into an anime series and I believe the lines between novels/mangas/animes are fairly blurred and cross-able and re-cross-able in the contemporary Japanese culture.)

The exploration of the “storytelling” theme strikes a chord with me, especially the idea that children’s rhymes and folklores are “real” messages, to deal with real life crisis and issues.

The idea of overlaying worlds of the Real and the Fantastic are not uncommon in fantasy traditions and especially in the Manga tradition — but here the author so tangibly captured the moments and the imagery of the two worlds when someone straddles the two realms. It made me feel as if I were the character who peeks into the fantastic realm and that that world could very well be next to me, waiting at my next breath.

Of course, there is quite a bit of nostalgia here, too — this story echoes those martial art novels (wu xia) that I grew up with in Taiwan. The characters, their relationships, the fighting skills and scenes, the themes, etc. are all exactly what I liked as a young reader and still like as an adult.

I am just so pleased that this series is brought to the States and may allow more titles like this or even open the door to translations of wu xia xiao shuo… That will be truly a dream comes true!

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