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3.5 stars rounded up because I liked the kami and the premise of switching the girls. Really though this ought to be a 3 stars because there were aspects that should have been developed better & more evenly. **Love the cover!!
Sora is a human changeling, not a kami princess, who learns the truth when a ghost army invades Mt. Fuji and takes her fake kami parents captive. Along with her bodyguard and childhood friend, Takeo, she must help the real princess come into her powers and fight with no time to prepare. Along the way she makes new friends and learns what it means to be a human.
I was super excited to learn what a kami or “guardians of the natural world” are, do and how they are different from humans. Right away you get this sense of the world that is very strong and definitely seems Asian in nature. The kami are super cool, especially her little friend, Midori, who really gave a personal idea of what a kami is and does. Later we get other elements about the kami world that I wish had been better setup and executed, but the description is very inventive:
…the child-sized tree fairies with their slingshots and tiny crossbows, and a strange creature with a bear’s furry body, an elephant’s trunk, and the striped legs of a tiger. When it crossed the road in front of us, Keiji gaped for a moment before murmuring, “Dreameater.”
I wanted more of this world and the kami and other creatures populating the world. Also changelings normally have the same or similar powers gifted to them by the beings who take them. So that doesn’t really make them human anymore… I didn’t mind that this was changed but I felt it was a lost opportunity. Just because we aren’t princesses with prophecies doesn’t mean we aren’t special with our own talents. This could have been developed in a really strong way that still banked on Sora’s human traits but that still captured the kami world that was a part of her life for so long!
I really liked the characters: Sora and her struggle to accept that she is not kami but human was especially poignant to me. It really felt like her thoughts were very natural to what was happening like this short passage with Takeo after her parents are taken captive:
“You’re tired, and upset,” he said quietly. “Your thoughts are scattered—you can’t focus. It’s not surprising. Here, I’ll do it.”
Wasn’t it surprising? Had he gotten any less steadfast since this afternoon? Why should I be any less strong?
I really wanted to give the book 5 stars in the beginning the setup was very good that way, and I took to Sora immediately because of that. The story got weaker as we went along and while I don’t think the story failed, there are so many places it could have had strong storycraft and development.
The romance was very weak as I don’t think a kiss should determine feelings absolutely, nor should initial feelings override actions of the other person. Love is a combination of physical love, affection, companionship and action, yours and theirs. Still I liked Keiji very much. He contrasted Takeo very nicely and showed another side to the kami/human debate. He was quite passive to Sora which does not a relationship make (lovers should be equals) but there was some reasoning behind why… Still it was rather convenient how Keiji just fell in line with whoever was bossing him around… Takeo was one of our main sources to tell us what a kami was, in nature and action. I liked the setup about him but later in the story he too gets very passive and does whatever Sora needs without question. (This is a symptom of lack of story development.) Again this is an ongoing problem in the story.
Chiyo was a fascinating character as a kami princess raised as a human. Her main motivator was her stalwart boyfriend, Haru. I really liked these two, they were strong secondary characters and made up for the weaknesses in the two men’s part of the story. Part of what was so lovely was the contrast of Chiyo’s personality to Sora’s. She was the more upbeat of the two with a powerful charisma. There are people out in the world like this that seem to eclipse strong people like Sora and the strong people have to deal with it. It is something girls should readily identify with! Haru had a couple moments that I really loved with Sora where he gave her a true blue human perspective of a man in love. I really liked that and wished Takeo and Keiji were not as disappointing in comparison.
This was definitely a character driven story. The setting is also a strength. The plot feels very formulaic like it is following an outline. We are told we are going to do “A” and off they go and do “A” with a minor difficulty that is quickly overcome by Sora each and every time. Every when powerful events happen about midway those events while unexpected were unfortunately just a bump on the road of the flat plot… This makes me very sad as I should have been more effected!! while there were many contrived situations, the pace remained fast and it was very easy to read.
The twists were not super great to me either as they felt very obvious. I guessed everything except for the events midway. “Insight. Recognition. Compassion.” These are what Sora used to defeat Omori. I loved the idea but the execution was a bit corny. There was tons of battle and I appreciated how the sparrow helped (though I’m confused when some random kami put his family into a bird & bugs).” While the plot didn’t work all the time (or rather was under developed A LOT) I did like how everyone was worked into the story to play their part!! This is how life is… everyone has a place and purpose and that’s okay.
BOTTOM LINE: A solid Japanese inspired girl power adventure.
Thanks to NetGalley and Another World Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.