Fantasy / Young Adult
The Twelve Kingdoms:
Sea of Shadow
Written by: Fuyumi Ono
Published By: TOKYOPOP
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
For Yoko Nakajima, life had always been rather ordinary, or at least that was the way she saw it. However, Yoko was never an ordinary girl, especially when one considered the shockingly red hair she possessed, a very rare trait in her part of Japan. Despite the comments about her strange hair color, Yoko had managed to lead an average life - paling around with schoolmates, dealing with peer pressures, etc. – until one day, when events combine to make Yoko’s life anything but ordinary. A man named Keiki appears from nowhere and warns Yoko that she is in terrible danger. Arming her with a sword and a creature/spirit that both aides and controls her use of the sword, Keiki announces that she must defeat an enormous birdlike creature in order to survive. Then, he whisks her off on the back of an equally extraordinary creature in a harrowing ride that ends abruptly as Yoko is thrown from her mount and left on the shores of an unknown land. Stranded in this mysterious world, Yoko is forced to hide from local people who believe her to be a bad omen, fighting a multitude of demons as she travels. Struggling to survive, relying only on her magical sword, Yoko travels far and wide in search of a way to get home. The longer she stays in this land, the less likely it is that Yoko will ever return to her home in Japan.
The Twelve Kingdoms is toted to be one of the most popular teen novel series published in Japan. Its later transformation into an anime series spawned fans from all over the world, who have been eagerly awaiting The Twelve Kingdom book series’ debut in English. Sea of Shadows is the first translated novel of the series released by TOKYOPOP’s Pop Fiction division.
Fuyumi Ono’s writing is engaging, luring the reader in within the first sentences of the novel. Through Ono’s detailed descriptions and unique writing style, the reader becomes fully immersed in the story and fully vested in its outcome. The teenage audience easily relates to the main character and her trials, however fantastic they are, because of the underlying meanings. Yoko constantly deals with trust issues, peer pressure, fear of the unknown, fear of the future – issues that your average everyday teenager will deal with on a regular basis. Placing these issues in a fantastic realm fraught with mythological creatures and magic makes dealing with these everyday teenage problems more entertaining. However, teenagers are not the only readers who will find any enjoyment in reading The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadows. Adults will enjoy the series as well, both for its mythological and magical aspects, and for its underlying messages that will still ring true for them today, despite having outgrown their teenage ways.
As if Fuyumi Ono’s vivid descriptions weren’t enough, Sea of Shadows contains several black and white drawings depicting scenes throughout the novel. The drawings are highly detailed and the fact that they are in black and white adds a dramatic flare. Since they are sparingly interspersed throughout the novel, the reader is forced to draw mental images from Ono’s descriptions. However, it is especially pleasing to discover, upon happening on one such drawing, that the reader’s imagination is not that far off from that of the artist.
All-in-all, The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadows is a highly enjoyable read for just about anyone who enjoys fantasy, mythology and magic. Yoko Nakajima may quite possibly be the Harry Potter of Japan!