Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Only the most ambitious readers need apply for Ono's complex seven-part epic, the first volume of the Twelve Kingdoms series, which is being published in English 15 years after its Japanese debut. Apart from being a redhead in a country where everyone's hair was black, Yoko is a student at an all-girl high school living an ordinary life-until she is attacked one day by several giant creatures. An enigmatic man named Keiki rescues her and whisks her across the Void Sea to a "bizarre and fearful world," where gods interact with kings, and children literally grow on trees. Yoko became separated from Keiki as she entered this mythical province of Jhun, in a land divided into 12 kingdoms. Its inhabitants, Yoko discovers, consider her a bad omen and would like to see her dead. Yoko's quest to locate Keiki leads her to some characters with questionable motives before she meets a friendly "rat-creature" named Rakushun. From him Yoko learns that Keiki is not a man but rather a kirin, "the biggest and noblest of the spirit-creatures"-and she is herself the "Glory-King," the chosen leader of the wartorn kingdom of Kei. Drawing heavily on Asian mythology, the story moves at a sluggish pace, at times bogged down by details and terminology. Yoko does not learn much about herself until the final stretch. For those who enjoy getting lost in multilayered adventures, this epic offers dense and challenging escapism. Ages 13-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Melyssa Malinowski
Yoko hates her life. She hates the nightmares. The thing she hates the most though is her hair. The bright red threatens to undue all her hard work at fading into the crowd. Little does she know that the intense nightmarish dreams she has are about to come true. Torn from school by a strange little being, she is thrust into the land of her nightmares. There she is persecuted just for being a foreigner. Little by little, Yoko takes a stand for herself and moves through the fairytale landscape. Through many intrigues and sword-clashing forays, gathering friends and allies along the way, she moves towards her destiny. But does she have what it takes to step up and be one of the rulers of The Twelve Kingdoms? Sure to be wildly popular with the anime/manga crowd, the novel reads with all the action and intensity of a comic. It is on the lengthy side so it might be just what is needed to hook those reluctant readers into reading.
School Library Journal
Yoko is an ordinary high school girl with nightmares when a golden-haired young man tells her she's in dream-foreshadowed danger. Soon the teen is flying on the back of a huge bird to a kingdom in another world, where she'll eventually learn that she is destined for a throne. The prominence of a jewel and a sword (as well as purification by water) connects this tale to Japanese tradition. Chinese tradition contributes cosmography and the Mandate of Heaven. Anime tradition guarantees lots of bloody monster-killing by the reluctant (and imperfect) Yoko. This otherworld seems thinly realized, with confusing politics; however, violent action and odd creatures abound. The real-world frame plays a small role, though the fantasy of not really belonging to one's parents is key. Yoko leaves behind her conservative, sexist upbringing, putting on men's clothes and developing muscles, acknowledging the demonic within, and learning to assert herself. Yet, she fears trusting anyone and judges the absence of religion as the reason for people's selfishness. A cynical blue monkey, the heroine's amoral self, regularly suggests suicide. The reading level is not difficult, but names (Keiki, Kaiko, Kyokai, Kou, etc.) are tricky without a guide. Pacing is uneven: stretches of inaction drag on and anticlimax replaces a final confrontation with the forces of evil�but six more volumes are planned. Anime fans will be encouraged by the occasional manga-style black-and-white illustration, and the strong female protagonist will attract others to a fantasy with identity and self-acceptance at its core.
Patricia D. LothropCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.