【Novel】精霊の守り人 (Seirei no Moribito) / Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit

Changed the layout around a bit since WordPress gave this layout more customization options. Sucks that the banner isn’t linked to the homepage, though.

Title: 精霊の守り人 (Seirei no Moribito) / Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
Author: 上橋菜穂子 (UEHASHI Nahoko)
English Translator: Cathy Hirano
Illustrator: 二木真希子 (NIKI Mayuko;JPN ver), 清水裕子 (SHIMIZU Yuko;ENG ver)
Volumes: 10
Genre: Children (Fantasy, Adventure)
Status: Completed. Volumes 1 and 2 published in North America by Scholastic Inc.
My Rating: 8.8/10

Description: 精霊の守り人 (Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit) is the first book in the Moribito fantasy novel series written by UEHASHI Nahoko. There are ten volumes in all and the series is aimed at children, but there are also a lot of teenage and adult fans. Scholastic Inc. in North America has licensed the series and has published two volumes of Moribito books at the time of writing. The English versions are translated by Cathy Hirano, and features artwork by SHIMIZU Yuko. (Instead of NIKI Mayuko’s artwork, who was the illustrator for the original Japanese version) The novels have been adapted into an anime (Seirei no Moribito) and manga.

Summary: Balsa is an extremely skilled bodyguard who is a master of the spear, and is willing to risk her life to protect the people she was paid to protect. However, due to some interesting turn of events, her latest client is a queen who wants to protect her son Chagum, the Second Prince. Not only are the people pursuing Chagum powerful and deadly, an otherworldly monster is also chasing after something within Chagum…

No summary will ever do this book justice, so if it doesn’t seem like the summary I provided was intriguing, please read the book anyways for full details. It’s that good.

Review and pictures under the cut.

Click to enlarge.

Review: This book, written in third-person, is set in a fantasy world highly influenced by Japan during the Middle Ages, but also with some western-type influences like an association of “Star Readers”. Since it’s a series directed at children, it was written in a straight-forward and easy-to-read language, with probably the most organized and easily comprehendable fight scenes I’ve ever read. Despite having quite a few “action” scenes, they never got too violent, and the injured parties always got well unnervingly quickly. The pace of plot progression was just right, and never lingered for too long on anything, which was a plus for me since I hate reading about tiny little details. The magical elements were weaved in quite nicely and really added to the intrigue. It was never overdone, and was treated as more like an organized, academic dicipline rather than some far-fetched and too-powerful supernatural power. When I first read it, I thought at first that the plot would be easy to predict, but it caught me off guard for about 75% of the book and kept me wanting to read more. The plot is also not that simple, and really give lots of room for imagination and development. Uehashi created a very expansive world here that I believe she will make full use of.

Click to enlarge. (Warning: Very large picture; 4168x1640)

The characters were great – all were memorable and unique, and it helped that everyone had catchy names. Even though Chagum couldn’t fight, he didn’t deteriorate into a generic “useless thing the awesome protagonist must protect in order to advance the plot” (like Maria from CANAAN), and actually had a personality and resolve of his own. Most of the main characters got enough time in the book for the readers to learn about their personality and pasts, and the adult characters got to show off a lot of their expertise and skills. These two things really help the audience develop attachment to them. My personal favourites were Balsa (definitely) and Torogai, who were both strong and individualistic female characters.

As for the translation, I didn’t find any problems with it, and it read very smoothly. What’s even better is that the whole book has no translation notes whatsoever.

Although everything I wrote up there was devoid of fiery passion, I was extremely immersed in the book while I was reading it, do really, really liked it. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes reading, but especially for people who just want to read a sufficiently substantial yet easy to understand book.

Click to enlarge.

Packaging: One of my favourite parts of this book. The packaging is just so well-done and so high-quality. The hardcover version has a dust jacket and the cover beneath it is embossed with an emblem on the front flap. The book binding is solid – the book could be opened to its widest and still be closed with all its pages lying straight and flat like it was just bought, but unfortunately it only lies flat if you hold it down. The landing and exit pages are pieces of thick, textured paper, and the regular pages are on smooth, thick slightly beige paper. Everything on the pages were printed in a dark navy blue ink, including the novel’s text itself and the three illustrations within. At the back it included a List of Characters, List of Places & Terms, Author’s Note, and a credits + design details page, the last of which is my favourite page in the book. The illustrations are two-page monochrome spreads and divide the novel into three parts.