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Guardian of the Spirit (Moribito Series #1)
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Guardian of the Spirit (Moribito Series #1)

4.8 8
by Nahoko Uehashi

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Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river -- and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy -- the Prince Chagum -- on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find


Balsa was a wanderer and warrior for hire. Then she rescued a boy flung into a raging river -- and at that moment, her destiny changed. Now Balsa must protect the boy -- the Prince Chagum -- on his quest to deliver the great egg of the water spirit to its source in the sea. As they travel across the land of Yogo and discover the truth about the spirit, they find themselves hunted by two deadly enemies: the egg-eating monster Rarunga . . . and the prince's own father.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jamaica Johnson Conner
Trustworthy bodyguard and fierce warrior, Balsa finds her life endangered when the Second Queen of New Yogo hires her to protect her son, the Second Prince, Chagum. As she and Chagum escape the palace and seek a safe refuge before their journey, Balsa realizes that she "pitied him (Chagum). Through no fault of his own, his father was trying to kill him; he had been wrenched away from his mother, deprived of all the tenderness that had always enveloped him, and thrown out into the world with no familiar faces. He must be pretty tough not to have dissolved in tears by now." While the journey intensifies, Chagum grows more courageous and strong, two traits necessary for survival, and Balsa realizes there is something special about the prince that stretches beyond his royal blood, something worth protecting. Filled with action from one chase scene to the next, this piece offers an engaging plot with endearing characters against a backdrop of magic and lore, which young adults will enjoy; however, caution must be exercised when recommending this piece to children younger than age twelve because of the thematic supernatural and magical elements as well as the occasional use of mild profanity. A list of characters, places, and terms provided in the back of the book prove a helpful resource for keeping track of otherwise complicated, yet important, information. Reviewer: Jamaica Johnson Conner
VOYA - Snow Wildsmith
Balsa is a wanderer, a bodyguard for hire trying to atone for the troubles of her past. Chagum is the sheltered Second Prince of the New Yogo Empire. When a mysterious power begins to take over Chagum's young body, his mother hires Balsa in a desperate attempt to save his life from the forces, both mystical and earthbound, trying to kill him. This book is first in a series of ten that have garnered literary and popular success in Japan. Presumably banking on the current popularity of Japanese comics and television, Balsa and Chagum's story is brought to America with a strong translation. Hirano's interpretation of Uehashi's words is smooth and almost completely lacks the flatness or awkwardness of some translated works. Readers who are fans of action manga, especially with strong female characters, will enjoy the ninja-like fighting scenes in this "fantasy world that carries the scent of Japan," as the author says in her note. Other readers will enjoy the high fantasy elements that incorporate the texture and cloth of traditional folklore and fairy tales. Some fight scenes, discussions of assassination, and an occasional mild swear word are touchy elements outside of the use of magic. There is even a dollop of romance for readers who want to see it. The exciting premise, combined with an attractive cover, should insure that this title will circulate well. Reviewer: Snow Wildsmith
Jordin Brown
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, translated by Cathy Hirano, is the first of the Moribito series, consisting of ten books, to become available in the United States. Since their release in Japan, the books have sold millions of copies and won widespread praise. It is currently being adapted for a major television series. After a chance encounter with Chagum, the Second Prince of New Yogo, Balsa, a legendary female bodyguard, finds herself responsible for his life. This proves to be the greatest challenge Balsa has yet to face, as the prince's life is threatened by his own father, the Mikado, and his pack of vicious hunters. Roaming the Japanese countryside in search of safety, Balsa and Chagum gather bits and pieces of disturbing history and legend as they come to learn more about the demon within the prince and the Mikado's sinister plan to destroy it. Full of stylish action, Moribito will quickly entrance fans of manga and Japanese martial arts. The violence is mild, and Uehashi delivers her tale in a vocabulary appropriate for younger and older readers alike. Reviewer: Jordin Brown
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
This is the first publication in English of Uehashi's first book in the Moribito series, which has already been published as a manga series and has been made into an animated TV show. In an afterword, the author explains how the idea of the series first came to her 12 years ago, and in the interim, she has written 10 books in all. It has been enormously successful in Japan, and we hope to have all the books translated into English and published here. There are many characters, but the two primary ones are Balsa, a young woman bodyguard, who is asked to protect the young prince, Chagum. His own father has tried to arrange the boy's assassination because of the threat of a water demon who is taking over the prince's body. There is much more to the complicated plot, and a few sentences cannot begin to capture that complexity. Characters are fully realized, not shallow or stereotypical. Adults, teenagers, and older children will enjoy this fantasy, set in a version of medieval Japan, and each reader will find a fascinating aspect of the story to relate to. American readers will be challenged by what may be already familiar to Japanese readers, but as we have seen with the popularity of manga and anime, this won't be an impossible hurdle. The cover is outstanding, with a drawing in full color of the beautiful Balsa, her shield in hand, carrying the young prince to safety. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up

This fantasy takes place in a land reminiscent of ancient Japan, populated by the indigenous Yakoo people and the immigrant Yogo who now rule. Both peoples tell a story of a child and a water spirit but with much different details. For the Yogo, the child was possessed by a water demon, while for the Yakoo, the water spirit was essential to prevent a horrendous drought. Now, it seems that this spirit has returned and is somehow living in Prince Chagum, and his father feels that he must have his son assassinated to defeat the demon. Chagum's mother prevails upon Balsa, a bodyguard-for-hire, to flee the capital with Chagum. Balsa is wounded after fighting off four of the assassins and seeks shelter with her friend Tanda, a healer. As she begins to train Chagum in life outside the palace, Tanda and his teacher Torogai begin researching Yakoo folklore and employing magic to discover more about this water spirit. In the meantime, the Yogo Star Readers research their records. Only through their combined studies are they able to learn the nature of the true danger and the means to defeat it. Whether from the original or through the translation, there are a few rough spots in the dialogue. Still, this book should appeal to fans of medieval and fantasy manga and of Usagi Yojimbo. The forthcoming manga and anime will also create interest.-Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Kirkus Reviews
This newly translated 1996 Japanese fantasy has spawned nine sequels, a radio drama, a manga comic book and an anime television series in Japan. In New Yogo, a magical land that vaguely resembles medieval Japan (as a typical Western fantasy vaguely resembles medieval Europe), children and adults work together to save the nation from ravenous demons. The wandering spear-fighting heroine Balsa is hired as a bodyguard for the Mikado's 11-year-old son. Prince Chagum is possessed by a water demon, and his mother is afraid that the Mikado will have the boy killed. Balsa spirits the boy into the woods where she spends a winter teaching him independence and martial skills. Balsa, 25, with her tragic past and love story, is the real protagonist here, with Chagum's coming-of-age playing second fiddle to her heroic adventure. While the disparate ages of the protagonists might seem unusual to Western fantasy fans, seasoned manga readers should be less surprised. Jam-packed with monstrous combat, ethnic conflicts and complex mythologies, Balsa and Chagum's story will win many new fans for this series. (Fantasy. 10-12)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Moribito Series , #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Nahoko Uehashi is the author of ten books in the Moribito series, which have sold more than a million copies and won many major literary awards in her native Japan. An associate professor at a Japanese university, she has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology and studies indigenous peoples in Australia. She lives near Tokyo, Japan.

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Guardian of the Spirit 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must admit that this is quite the book. Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, is an amazing story. It beats the anime in a lot of aspects. First, while the book doesn't give the same kind of character depth to some characters as the anime does; it doesn't beat around the bush like the anime does either. There are many differences between the book and the show though that you can't really compare the two.This book has the beautiful simplicity that only feudal Japan can have. Balsa is an amazing role model and Lady Torogai is a wise bundle of spitfire. All in all, it is a great book to read.
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TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Balsa is a bodyguard who hires out her services to protect those who can pay her, but when she is asked to take care of the thirteen-year-old Second Prince of New Yogo, Chagum, she becomes swept up in events beyond her control. His mother, the Second Queen, tells Balsa that Chagum has become involved in mystical happenings connected to the founding of New Yogo, and may be possessed by a water demon that the founding king purportedly slew over 200 years ago. Chagum's possession by this demon calls into question everything that the rulers of New Yogo have always said about their divine right to lead this kingdom, and as a result, Chagum's father, the king, wants him dead. Balsa must agree to guard Chagum, or lose her life for knowing too much.

Balsa and Chagum must attempt to escape the warriors sent after them by the king and find out more about the exact details of the water spirit that has possessed Chagum. They discover contradictory legends surrounding the original water spirit, one told by the Yogoese, another told by the Yakoo, who inhabited the land of New Yogo before the Yogoese came to settle there. Either legend could be right, and both of them agree only upon one detail: if the correct path is not followed, New Yogo will suffer a terrible drought that will cause poor harvests and mass starvation.

Set in a fantasy world analogous to medieval Japan, this story sprawls through the lives and perspectives of many different characters. Though it focuses mainly on Balsa and reveals details about her own past and her reasons for becoming a warrior, it also deals with Chagum's experiences in the world outside of the palace, the perspective of a healer named Tanda, a master mystic, Torogai, and many more. These well-drawn characters are sometimes daring, sometimes afraid, yet always sympathetic.

The world of New Yogo is given remarkable texture by the layers of legend and myth that overwhelm the characters in their search for the truth. Uehashi's world is deftly rendered through these legends and the different people who tell them, and it is obvious that she has spent a great deal of time thinking about her remarkable setting. GUARDIAN OF THE SPIRIT is only the first in a series of ten stories set in this world, and I look forward to reading the rest!