Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner

Since I'm now living in Japan, I'm especially interested books about it - fiction, non-fiction, anything can get my interest. So when I saw the blurb of "Spirit's Princess" on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it. And I wasn't disappointed at all.

Spirit's Princess is the fictionalised account of the mythological figure Queen Himiko, who was supposed to have ruled over the Yayoi (ancient Japanese). The book (book 1) follows her early years, from growing up to her Shaman training and her struggle to be accepted as the Shaman of her tribe (the Matsu tribe).

Because the book is set in Ancient Japan, it's imbued with Animism. I heard that the book is not very historically accurate, but frankly, I know nothing about that period anyway so I can't say that I have any strong feelings about the other details mentioned in the book. But I'm pretty sure that they practiced Animism. Although there's a short period of time where Himiko feels that all the spirits want from humans is fear, it quickly goes back to the point of view that the spirits are generous and good. To me, the book would not have felt as real if it didn't include this aspect, but some readers might avoid the book because of this. Personally, I don't see any threat to my faith because this was how it was, and to avoid it or put in something that wasn't there would have make the book feel inauthentic to me.

Now, on to the characters. Since this is essentially a fictionalised biography, the characters are really important. And they don't disappoint us. I empathised with Himiko from the beginning, from her wish to be a hunter (When she's expected to be a lady, i.e. marry and give birth). Her mother was understandable, though sometimes annoying in her overprotectiveness. And of course, Lady Yama was the lovable old grouch ( a stereotype that I hardly get annoyed with). There are other characters (like Aki), of course, but I don't need to go into detail about them. I liked all the characters except Himiko's father (what a grouch!) although I could understand why he would think the way he did.

Talking about her father, there's actually a really interesting backstory involving him in the book. It's also one of the sources of Himiko's difficulties in becoming a Shaman. I'm hoping that in the next few books, this story is explored in more detail.

Yup, I'm already looking forward to the next book. I hope I get a chance to review it too(:

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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