By Nahoko Uehashi [translated by Cathy Hirano]
Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu
Place: Publisher, Year: New York : Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008
Genres: Fantasy, adventure, mythic fiction
ISBN: 9780545005425, 0545005426
Series: Moribito; 1
Intended audience: Tweens, young adults
Number of pages: 248+
Setting: Reminiscent of ancient Japan
Time period: Medieval time period
Plot summary: As Balsa crosses the commoner’s bridge over the Aoyumi River, her life takes an interesting turn. At the same time she is crossing, so is a royal procession crossing the Yamakage Bridge just upstream. Balsa witnesses the royal carriage tip over, dumping the young Second Prince into the raging river. Without stopping to think, Balsa clips her rope to her spear and sends it flying into the river, rope in hand, to save the prince. However, once she has rescued the prince, she finds herself bound to his fate, which will require many more rescues of the young boy.
Illustrations: At the beginning of each section are two page illustrations. The drawings are beautifully rendered; they seem simple and intricate at the same time.
Pacing: Fast pace with lots of action.
Characterization: Told in third person through a variety of perspectives: Balsa, Chagum (the prince), Tanda , Shuga, Torogai, and even the assassin, Mon.
Frame: The ancient land of the Nayoro Peninsula is filled with both much natural beauty as well as Otherworldly creatures, including demons.
Story line: A beautifully told, yet exciting story about dealing with forces beyond one’s control and finding grace from within.
Fantasy — Fiction.
Similar authors: From Amazon: Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, Brave Story by Miyuki Miyabe
Personal notes: I loved this book! An author note in the back of the book makes it clear that this story is not set in Japan – “Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit takes place in a land born from my imagination, and the names of the characters and places are all from languages that belong to an imaginary world. Yet it is also influenced by the culture and lifestyle of my birthplace, Japan, in some ways resembling the country in the Middle Ages.” [Annotated 3/26/09]
Other (themes, diversity): Diversity – Female warriors (Japanese influenced)