Synopsis: (from Goodreads)
When eighteen-year-old Keiko Yamada’s father dies unexpectedly, he leaves behind a one way ticket to Japan, an unintelligible death poem about powerful Japanese spirits and their gigantic, beast-like Guardians, and the cryptic words: “Go to Japan in my place. Find the Gate. My camera will show you the way.”
Alone and afraid, Keiko travels to Tokyo, determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish. There, beneath glittering neon signs, her father’s death poem comes to life. Ancient spirits spring from the shadows. Chaos envelops the city, and as Keiko flees its burning streets, her guide, the beautiful Yui Akiko, makes a stunning confession–that she, Yui, is one of a handful of spirits left behind to defend the world against the most powerful among them: a once noble spirit now insane. Keiko must decide if she will honor her father’s heritage and take her rightful place among the gods.
First, I have to say that overall I really liked this story. But I do have a couple of warnings for potential readers:
One passage from Kojiki pretty aptly describes the novel: “Yui had a habit of revealing things like a veil dancer, one tantalizing piece at a time.”
If you’ve never read anything about Japanese culture before, you might not want to start with Kojiki. The beginning was a little confusing. I had to re-read a couple of passages to adequately grasp what was going on – but I think a lot of that was because I have NO education about Tokyo and the city’s layout and characteristics. Also, I understand why the author included short clips/phrases of the Japanese language – but I don’t know Japanese. It would have been nice to have some kind of index at the back that translated the phrases for you. Even though the time it would take to flip to the back for the translation would take away from the flow of the story a little bit, knowing the meaning would have ceased my curiosity and allowed me to move on and focus on the next point in the story. That being said, I thoroughly have enjoyed reading about Japanese mythology. I love to learn about other cultures and this book, although not a nonfiction, reference book, is a great way to introduce someone to the mythology of Japan.
There is a TON of flashbacks going on. The flashbacks do reveal key components to Kojiki, but sometimes there was NO heads-up that I was reading a flashback. Some entire chapters were flashbacks. Sometimes I’d be in the middle of a heavy-action scene and POOF – flashback – then POOF – back to present day. So that was a little confusing – necessary, but confusing. It might have been better had the author changed the font of the flashbacks or made them italics as a way to make it more clear to the reader and easier to grasp.
There are multiple POVs. I’d say this book would be suitable for fans of George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Tolkien, and other epic fantasy authors. If you couldn’t stand the changing POVs in these series, and the dense, elaborate storyline, including backstory, etc., then do not pick up this book. You must appreciate a meandering, fractured storyline complete with tons of backstory and flashbacks, lots of action, and an abundance of detail.
Other things I enjoyed about Kojiki:
The jisei, a Japanese death poem, was awesome and thought provoking:
I leave a dream of me behind
To protect sun and spirit
For they are the light of my soul
It left me wondering how it was going to be prophetic to the story. And (slight spoiler alert) it wasn’t the only one – there are a handful more throughout the story!
Something I did notice and did appreciate was the absence of typos. As confusing and convoluted as this novel could be at times, the lack of typos is evidence of the time and care the author took with this story.
I also really enjoyed the banter between Aeryk Aeronson and his Guardian Ventyre. Really, every relationship between a Spirit and Guardian was carefully crafted, with each being distinct, different, unique in its own way.
I was ensnared by the dragons – I love dragons! Need I say more?
When Keiko first meets Takeshi (Yui’s father and a Great Spirit), he asked permission to view her memories. I absolutely LOVED the description of Keiko’s “library of memories” that she shows to Takeshi! This is just one example of the author’s ability to paint pictures with words!
Oh yeah, and what’s up with the bald dude in red robes with the white aura who, at the beginning of the story, leads Keiko to the Boundary? I think it was Takeshi, and that may have been explained at some point in the novel, but I’m still uncertain about his true identity.
Overall, the beginning chapters may be a little confusing and dense for the reader, but once past the fifth chapter, the story line really starts to come together and things get really interesting. And I could NOT put it down once I got to the final, epic battle between Spirits and their Guardians. I even shed a tear at one point!
Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Appropriate for ages 16 & up.
For more information about Keith Yatsuhashi, check out his website.
I received a free eBook of Kojiki from Goodreads-Making Connections in exchange for an honest review.