When the immortal children of the God of Light wage war on the mortal world of the Goddess of Darkness, only the master of the Dragon Sword can stop the God from destroying the world.
It's been a long time since I didn't want a book to end. When I finished reading The Lord of the Rings and all of its appendices I felt like crying. It wasn't just that the story was over, but because the magical age in the world of the story was ending. The only one who seemed cool with that was my favorite character, Sam Gamgee.
I had the same feeling after finishing Noriko Ogiwara's Dragon Sword and Wind Child (VIZ Media LLC). I didn't feel like crying, but I had that same sort of wistful feeling. An age of the world in the story was ending, and even though all of the threads in the story were tied up very neatly, I wanted the story to continue. I wanted to know what happened to the characters after that.
Just as Tolkien sought to create a legendary ancient history for England, drawing upon ancient myths and legends of northern Europe, so Ogiwara draws upon the ancient lore of Japan to create a mythical history of the Japanese people, their gods and the royal line. The world of Dragon Sword and Wind Child is filled with beautiful landscapes, fascinating people, powerful gods and devastating war. Every culture and character is beautifully fleshed out and interesting. Everything from the simple courtship festival in Saya's village to the overwhelming splendor of Mahoroba, the Palace of Light. Against this backdrop are layers of love stories. Even the gods are tangle up in it, willing to unmake the world to end the pain of loneliness.
Dragon Sword and Wind Child is the story of Saya the Water Priestess of the people of the Darkness, who can still the Dragon Sword-a devastating weapon created by the death of the Fire god--and still the old gods. It's also the story of the children of the God of Light: Prince Tsukishiro and Princess Teruhi (the Moon and the Sun) and their younger brother Prince Chihaya who is more than he seems. Even though Saya belongs to the Darkness she longs for the Light, and though he's a Prince of Light Chihaya longs for the Darkness. Through many reincarnations Saya has tried and failed to find the Light, her life ending tragically over and over again. Will she succeed in this lifetime? Can she control the terrible Dragon Sword? Can she stop the God of Light from returning the world to chaos?
Dragon Sword and Wind Child is an easy read, while still being layered and complex. Sometimes it's even quite dark. No character is sacred, no one's feelings are spared. It's not a vast sweeping epic with an intricate back-story like The Lord of the Rings, but it has that same heroic, mythical theme of trying to prevent the end of the world with a legendary sword, a small talisman, and the power of love and friendship.
However, for me much of the allure is that all-too-rare bird in heroic fantasy, the female heroine. Saya is rarer still when you consider that this book was first published in Japan in 1988, back in the days when heroic fiction meant manly men or scrappy boys braving the elements and beating the bad guys bloody. Saya isn't a plucky Disney princess type, nor is she the fainting violet who needs a man to solve her problems. She's somewhere in between, just like most 15-year old girls. Some things she can handle, some things piss her off, and other things paralyze her with fear and indecision. She makes mistakes-sometimes very big ones-but she takes responsibility for her actions and how they affect those around her. Ultimately, she even accepts a destiny that seems far too big for a simple village girl whose most difficult problem before Destiny found her was how not to hook up with her friends' love interests at the festival. (Almost like Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "I'm an ordinary high school cheerleader!" "No, you're the Slayer, and your school sits on a hell mouth, so you have to kill vampires now!")
I will definitely be reading this book again, even though I know all of its twists.
The two other books in the trilogy (The Swan's Strange Legend, and Maid of Heaven) are only available in Japan.
This review originally appeared on the reviewer's blog Spilt Ink