Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Review: Spirit's Princess

 (Apologies that this is late, moving into a new apartment and all that whatnot) Another book I got from Random Buzzers, this time through a visiting author on their forums (I have no idea how this one works, do the authors choose who gets a book? The mods? Is it random? Based on the question asked? Doesn't really matter for me, I can always get the books later if I don't win one there, but I am curious) and I've been interested in this author's works for a while now (probably because one of her protagonists shares my name) and was happy to finally get a chance to read them. Like the other books she's written this one will be a duet and is based on a real, historical female figure from ancient times and I suppose I should just get to the review at this point.

Spirit's Princess by Esther Friesner

Summary: Himiko is the daughter of a chieftain in third century Japan and ever since her birth some people in her village have believe she was destined for greatness. She feels drawn towards the path of village shaman but encounters resistance from her father because of his own past experiences. Despite that however she's determined to learn even more and starts to realize that her destiny lies outside of her small village after all.  

The Good: It may be an odd detail to point out but I think this is the first time I've ever seen a polygamous relationship portrayed in a positive light in fiction and, considering the popular culture in the US generally makes it out as something terrible that will never work, I just liked how it was included and felt rather natural in the story. I also loved the setting, despite all the anime/manga I consume I rarely find anything that's set more than a few hundred years ago and certainly nothing almost 2000 years ago which made the setting here fascinating and it managed to feel real through it's details (and even some of the weirder ones, like creating sake through chewing rice, I've encountered elsewhere so I know that's a real detail). And it really was those details that let me enjoy the story, they helped the story stand out and they made the setting work (and I do consider the setting the most important part of the story for it's overarching effects on every character and their actions, which it did wonderfully here).  

The Bad: Himiko, despite all of her character development comes off as just a bit flat at times. Hopefully as she continues to grow in the next book she'll feel a bit more rounded (I think the problem is that most of her complaints are too reasonable or can be written off by the fact that she's rather young, she's almost too normal in a way) and she certainly wasn't a flat character, just not as rounded as she could've been. I do wish they had touched more on the spirit world in this volume, there were only a few scenes focusing on it which left a lot of things unanswered, but again I expect that to come up in the next book so I'm not overly worried about it.

A solid read but not one where I'm dieing to read the next book immediately (thank goodness since this was an ARC, the hardback is out by now but it's going to be a little while before the next volume is out), although it has reminded me that I need to go check all of my libraries again and see if they have any of Friesner's previous works in, they've certainly had enough years to do it!  

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